Sometimes you're just in the mood: What My Mother and I Don't Talk About.
14 November 2019
I've never actually given my relationship with my mother a lot of thought. We were always really close and worked together in a family business and share a lot of the same opinions, so for me it's been a good relationship. When I first went to college I was really homesick for home and for her; I've kept some cards she sent me while I was a couple of hours away and they still make me laugh and tear up a little when I read them. They're not sappy or anything, they're just pure mom. She's kind of a stoic and could never really write I love you or I miss you but I know that she did. On one card she drew a little unhappy face with tears, with this written next to it: "I do this a lot."
But she is aging and I am aging. For my sisters and I, now in our forties and fifties, it seems just a bit like we are having a somewhat-delayed (thirty or forty years delayed; just somewhat) adolescent-hood. As Mom's needs change (and they have, particularly since my Dad died), we are experiencing some difficulties getting along with one another. It's all fine; it's growing pains. But it has been an eye-opening process.
All of which is a very long-winded introduction to the subject of how much I am enjoying the essay collection What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence, edited by Michele Filgate (who is also the author of the essay of that title). Just a few years ago I probably would not have been in the right place to read this book. But now I am, and it's knocking me over. The essays are good, and they're just (almost unbearably) honest and (often) sad. But there is a strength in them, and in the writers, and in the humbling realization that we are all human and it is hard to get along, even where there is love. I continue to learn this lesson over and over, just of late. How hard it is to get along even with those you love the most. Reading a book like this makes me look at people and the human condition and just be awestruck, over and over again, that so many people get up out of bed and face each day. To do what humans do--go out and face life every day, over and over and over--with all our weaknesses?* It's incredible.
Anyway. I'm explaining it badly. But it's a good book and an interesting collection and even if you don't have any issues with your mom, you may want to check it out. I'll leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs, from the essay "Thesmophoria," by Melissa Febos:
"There is a difference between the fear of upsetting someone who loves you and the danger of losing them. For a long time, I couldn't separate them. It has taken me some work to discern the difference between the pain of hurting those I love and my fear of what I might lose. Hurting those we love is survivable. It is inevitable. I wish that I could have done less of it. But no matter how much of it I did, I would never have lost her." (p. 56.)
*And constant freaking snow and unrelenting record-setting cold in November? As if it wasn't hard enough to get up and go about your day?