How well did we know our parents? Do you ever wonder? It takes so long to move from infancy to true adulthood when reason and reflection more readily occur. Even the most empathic of teenage and young adult children are enmeshed in a world of beckoning technology where drama and daily ups and downs can render relationships with parents annoyances or afterthoughts.
Parents wonder if they're doing all that needs to be done to launch their children into a fast-paced world. Advice falls on deaf ears. They watch their progeny become attached to "friends" in the thousands online. It's a foreign world with islands of family unity on special holidays when time together must be negotiated so nothing "big" is missed.
But if we think that life was totally different and better in years past, we may simply be engaged in selective recall. As Mother's Day approaches, pick up a copy of Still Here Thinking of You. Vicki Addesso, Susan Hodara, Joan Potter and Lori Toppel joined by their love of writing and memories of their mothers revisit wonderful and unsettling moments beyond the heavy midst of time.
Years are condensed to months. People gone are here again. This is storytelling as art. The authors excel in their ability to pull you into their recollections knowing, it seems, that you are out there vicariously living through their revelations and your own similar, heartfelt and heartrending reflections.
These are not stories of ceaseless love for mothers now passed away. They are not sugarcoated apparitions dipped in shiny caramel of revised recall. Still Here Thinking of You is a way back in time to the authors' past experiences. It's also an invitation to take a similar journey -- to remember the trying and the uplifting.
We meet Edith -- the categorized, aging, now single mother and the more beautiful one who escapes the restraints imposed by time:
On the dining room table, she had left a cigarette burning in an ashtray, and so she scuttled over to extinguish it. She wasn't at all content living in this nicely appointed two-bedroom. She was lonely, obsessed with her health and housekeepers, and had become faithful to her sedatives at night. My father had remarried; his new wife twenty years younger than he.
A life extinguished by hardship hanging by a thread? Yet, this is the same Edith who, moments later, is "willing to succumb to delight." Her grandsons, sporting pacifiers, are invited to play pirates, rummage, sticky fingers and all, through their grandmother's jewelry box treasures. "She draped the strands of pearls around Ben's neck and gave Alex earrings." The cane she used to walk became a bucking horse, "Okay, giddy-up, we're off."
Love is palpable in Still Here Thinking of You. So is the honesty. Yes, you'll find selective recall. Is there any other kind? Do any of us live all memories with equal intensity? We are reminded of that as well.
There is forgiveness here, even when forgetting is impossible. Understanding, too, garnered by the passage of time and personal experiences of love and loss.
We may recall our own mothers calling our names from the doorways of our homes, keeping an eye on everyone's children, working, caring for us and others, doing what mothers did back then, differently and yet so often much the same.
Still Here Thinking of You reminds us that they, like us, worried, worked, struggled, fell ill, recovered, fell short, and loved us all the while.
Any four women would have written a different book. Do not open it looking for your mother's story. I believe, however, you will be hard pressed not to find her between the lines.
Kathleen also blogs here