Want to give birth to a bestselling novel? Simple. Tell your mother’s story.
Even if it never became a bestseller, the book would be sure to get someone’s attention. Stories about mothers are high on literary agents’ minds. It shows in their manuscript wishlists.
So, what gives?
As a woman, I have a well of admiration for any loving mother. Not only is she a strong woman of her own right, but she delivers something beautiful into the world with every babe.
She breathes life into us, she nurtures us, and she provides for us. Come what may, she sees us through every phase of development – heart, mind, and body. She gives selflessly. She never stops giving.
That alone should give her the freedom to make choices about her own reproductive system. Am I right?
Each term in a mother’s growth is challenging and rewarding, beyond imagination. Her body changes. Her mind changes. Her heart triples in size.
Someday, I hope to join this courageous crowd. Though I confess, I can’t stomach a single birthing video. Don’t tell me what will happen to my body. I don’t want to know! If I did, I would never make it to the delivery room. To think, women labor every day.
What an amazing act of kindness! Nine months of sacrifices. Just to give us life.
Naturally, we should hold our mother in high esteem. Many of us do. We should honor her at every age, soak up her wisdom, and cherish our time with her. It’s no surprise: Many of us do.
And yet, she makes mistakes.
It’s only human. We all make mistakes. The difference is the mistakes in child rearing are the ones that last. Sometimes, they last a lifetime. As daughters and sons, these missteps inform who we become.
Suddenly, our relationship with this brave and beautiful woman is tense. It’s complicated. It gets messy.
Especially for daughters, we try to take a stand for our own values in a way that honors the woman who brought us into the world. But we are too different. Or we are too similar. Or, in trying to be true to ourselves, we have unintentionally said things that will wound one another.
Was your relationship with your mother this way? Mine was.
Motherhood in Memory
When it comes to stories about our mothers, fiction has been found wanting.
Sure, these stories are out there. There’s the troubled plot of “Everything I Never Told You,” by Celeste Ng, and the heart-breaking “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. Not to mention countless others.
The path of a daughter and her mother are intertwined in turbulent turns, where the wishes of one challenge the dreams of the other. A mother disapproves. A mother gives up. A mother dies.
Reading these books is, at times, both bruising and moving. Truth be told, I rarely crack their spines. For some of us, it’s just too much. Our hearts ache for the relationship we once had. Or the relationship we hoped to have. Or the relationship we’ll never have.
So, how can we change this? Publishers and literary agents want to know. They want to see the mother in her proper place. A family overflowing with love. They want to know how our mothers lift us up, how they teach us, how they help us grow.
It begs the question. When was the last time an author nurtured a maternal bond in writing? When was the last time she immortalized her mother in a tale of admiration?
Will you be the one to break the trend? Will I?
A Gentle Giant
Tell us. Who was your mother?
In Latin, her name meant “little” or “small.” But that is misleading. My mother was a gentle giant.
Maybe 5’4, she was small in stature. She had long, brown hair with unpredictable ringlets at the end. When she awoke on weekend mornings, her unruly hair was embarrassing. She wore wide-rimmed glasses. Like me, she had deep brown eyes that shone when she smiled.
To wit, people tell me I am the spitting image of her.
After going into teaching special education, Mom decided to work at a prison to put more bread on the table. She survived a nasty divorce with my father, a divorce that scarred all of us. It was his fault. But she was the one to draw the line.
One day, she told my father to leave the house. When he wouldn’t go, she made it happen. She called the police. At a tender age, I couldn’t forgive her for that. Now older and wiser, I know she made the right choice. She did what was best for all of us.
My mother carried three babies to term with her first husband, and she delivered twins with her second. How strong must she have been? How formidable was her faith? How much fortitude must that have taken? How huge was her heart? How much had it grown by the time she reached age 51?
Part single mom. Part graduate student. Part special needs advocate. All the while, she was working a tough job to make the world a better place.
Now, she’s gone. When I was 27, my mother was killed in a head-on car collision. Mired in difficult memories, I had to make a choice. And for you, dear reader, I chose honesty. It is the only true and proper way to honor my mother’s memory.
The trouble is we never saw eye to eye.
We were too different. Or were we the same? My mother’s life challenged her in ways that I’ll never fully understand. Her emotions, which ran deep, became a prized possession that she had to protect from the world. By the time I was in high school, she rarely spoke to me. In my college days, she rarely called.
But you know what? I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for my mother. I wouldn’t be able to trust a soul, if not for her undying love. I wouldn’t know what it means to lift myself up, if not for her stubborn pride.
And I miss her. I miss her so much, I can barely sit still with the memory. At least I said “I love you.” I said it every time, even when she was too busy safeguarding her heart to say it back.
Mom was amazing! She was a force of nature. She lives on in my memory, and she holds a place of honor in my heart. If my mother was small, it was only because she prioritized that which was larger than herself.
Somewhere deep inside, I’ve always known she was the earth beneath my feet.
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