Sian-Pierre Regis was in Paris when his mother left him a voicemail that he will never forget: “I just got fired, just want you to know that. Call me. Bye.”
His 75-year-old housekeeper mother, Rebecca Danigelis, had been working in hospitality for as long as Regis could remember.
“We were raised above a hotel,” Regis says. Danigelis raised two boys by herself in Boston, above the hotel that she worked in.
“I was always very aware of the fact that everything she made went into our mouths,” Regis remembers about he and his brother’s upbringing. She cashed out her 401k to help Regis go to college, and he went on to live his dreams, while hers were set aside.
Then she got fired.
Regis decided it was time for his mother to live her dreams. He wanted to help her live her best life, and he wanted them to do it together.
The bucket list
Danigelis had been working on a bucket list of things she’s always wanted to do. “When she got fired,” says Regis, “all these bucket list items took on so much more weight.”
She added a few more items to the list and together they set off to live her dreams.
Some of the things on her list were pure fun: Take a hip-hop lesson with a dancer from the award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, join Instagram, milk a cow in Vermont, take a mystery trip.
But some of her bucket list items were deeper and more meaningful to her, like visiting the grave of her sister in England.
Danigelis missed her sister’s funeral because she was working. She couldn’t find someone to cover her shift, so she didn’t attend. Standing over her sister’s grave, she sobbed, saying, “I wish I had come sooner.”
“I could see all the memories of she and her sister flooding towards her, she just felt horrible,” Regis says.
Regis says his mother has been reflective about missing out on so many things in her life, but she says she would never change any of it. “She had to put food on the table,” he said. And her boys always were her priority.
As mother and son toured the world, ticking off her bucket list items, the duo has shared many laughs.
“There is a spirit within her that I’ve never seen so bright, she’s 75 but I’ve never seen her younger than in these moments,” Regis says.
This dynamic duo isn’t done with mom’s bucket list. Danigelis has yet to skydive or walk the Boston Marathon route, something she plans on doing with both her sons. She is actively looking for a job in hospitality, but says she is having trouble finding an employer who is seeking someone her age.
Regis has filmed their adventure since the beginning, hoping to share his mother’s struggle with the world, but also give her something she can cherish forever. “She’s always wanted to write a memoir,” Regis says. “So many people in their day-to-day jobs render that dream impossible, but now through this film, she’s able to tell her story and be in control of this story.”
They will continue completing items on mom’s bucket list through the end of 2017. Regis has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for production costs for his mother's film, which they've titled Duty Free.
In the meantime, follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook. And if you see Danigelis painting a picture of her neighborhood in Boston’s Back Bay, know that she’s fulfilling another one of her dreams.
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