Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Be warned, this isn’t my usual chipper ‘isn’t life a hoot’ type of blog. It’s a bit sad really. I am not entirely sure why but I’ve been feeling a bit ‘vulnerable’ shall we say. Maybe I’ve got the opposite of SAD and go gloomy as a reaction to the rest of the world hurtling into shorts and throwing sausages on the barbecue. Maybe it’s because I’ve finished my ‘baby’ - Samael – my YA supernatural romance novel (click on the link on the sidebar if you’d like to read a taster) and I feel a bit bereft. Or maybe it’s because my real ‘baby’ (all eleven hulking years of him) is away for the week and I’m getting premonitions (okay, seven years too early) of being an empty nester. I dunno. But as I sat at my PC, trying to write a feature on Lava Shells massage (another story) I found myself tearing up.
I got to thinking about how being a mother shifts your entire world. No matter how cavalier you think you are, however nonchalant, however non-maternal really, it changes you, deep down to the cellular level. Okay, bottom line, I worry. My lad is doing the stuff I really want him to do – he’s off with his school, doing gung-ho action stuff (kayaking, abseiling, rafting, hiking) and all the usual team and confidence building malarkey. I love that he’s there, with his friends, that he’s stretching himself and having fun but it’s impossible not to think ‘what if...’
Impossible, right now, not to think of that terrible coach crash in Cumbria. How on earth would it feel? How could you cope? I was in buckets as I watched the news. How would I feel if the mothering was ripped out of me?
I knew, when I started writing Samael that mothering was a deep theme in the book but, as I came to the climax, I was surprised to find how pivotal it was and how emotional it made me writing about it. Not just about how I mother but about my own mother (who died eighteen months ago) and about how a legacy of mothering can pass down through the generations. And how, equally, that legacy can be changed, if you are mindful enough about it – if you make the decision to do things differently.
And then, in the strange way that life has of throwing up meaningful coincidences, synchronicities, I was sent a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Penguin). It was ‘about nannies’ apparently and I wasn’t terribly overwhelmed at the premise. But as I read, I realised it was all about mothering. Good mothering, bad mothering, no mothering at all. And about choices, about the power to change – if one has the guts and the will. I was, quite frankly, bowled away by it. It’s set in the Deep South of the US, in the sixties (the decade in which I was a child) in a world where white middle-class mothers hand over the care of their children to black ‘maids’. The story is filtered through three points of view. Aibileen who lost her own son and is now raising her seventeenth white child. Minny, rebellious and lippy but kind-hearted and nursing her own grief. And Skeeter, a decent-hearted college girl who yearns to be a writer and doesn’t want to become just another wife and mother. Their voices (superbly captured) weave a compelling tale of secrets, ignorance, love, betrayal and friendship. It is shocking, appalling, uplifting and also very funny. I was transfixed. I stayed up one whole night, reading until I thought my eyes would drop out.
So, there we have it. Me, listening to Moby for some bizarre reason and feeling my heart whimpering. Then Adrian calls down the stairs – ‘they’ve got a blog up on the school website. You can see what they’re up to’ – and I’m there, with my magnifying glass, trying to figure out which of the boys in wetsuits and helmets is mine. Not really mine, just borrowed (I know, I know), but oh so loved and, for this moment at least, oh so safe. And I say a quiet prayer of deep thanks for my good fortune – and send out a prayer of deepest sorrow for those whom fate has dealt the hardest cruelest cards. Even when the child has gone, we still remain mothers to the core.