Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime.
Mothers and daughters.
I'm always attracted by fiction which explores this
complicated and important relationship and the choices that come with it.
Coe Booth's second novel, Kendra, tells a
mother/daughter story that's just as complicated as the one you might know.
The decisions are difficult, but the relationship is sometimes tricky, and
there are some bitter, painful disappointments -- but there's so much
potential for happiness, too. Will Reneé ever be able to be a good mother?
Having seen all the trouble some choices can make, will Kendra make the same
mistakes as her mother?
People say that a daughter is like her mother's earlier
reflection in a mirror. (Well, Shakespeare says it a lot better.)
Unfortunately for Kendra, the fact is, even when we don't want to be, we're
sometimes a lot like our moms! Fortunately, our brains are our own, so
regardless how the mirror reflects our sameness, our mistakes will be all
By the time she was twenty-three, my mom had three kids under the age of five. We were
stair-step close, a year and a half apart, one-two-three, and Mom, who had
been her senior class valedictorian and prom queen, turned down a full
college scholarship for... babies.
Well, I'll tell it to you straight: even when I was
little, that freaked me right out. To me, babies were cute,
and all, but what I really wanted was a book or sixty, a cushy chair, and a
lamp right over my shoulder. Oh, and some popcorn, preferably hot. And a
smoothie. And peace. And nobody calling me, crying for me, nobody drooling,
nobody teething or upchucking or needing Vitamin E. cream slapped on a
chapped baby backside. No, thanks. I couldn't believe my mother turned down
a full ride to a state university to have my oldest sister. I always said,
"But, Mom! Why didn't you just give her to grandma?"
("And, why couldn't grandma have just
kept her?" For some reason, my oldest sister always smacked me about this
point in the story.)
When my mom found out she was pregnant, her mother could
have bailed her out, as Reneé's mother did for her. But at that time, a lot
of my mother's classmates had kids first, and went to night school and
junior college to put their education second. My mother didn't want anyone
else to raise us, and so, she did what was expected. She got married. She
had a family. Then, when I was in the fifth grade, Mom decided her youngest
daughter was big enough to fend for herself, and went back to school.
And like that mirror Shakespeare talks about, my mother's
life reflected her mother's life, in some ways.
My Mom's mother, Anita, got married in
1944, at the age of (drum roll, please) ... fourteen. Only three
years before, her world had changed, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor,
and the United States entered into World War II. Anita's beau, Wilbur, was
all of eighteen, and he was being called off to serve in the Navy. As so
many girls of that day and age did, my grandmother got married, and was left
a fifteen-year-old pregnant bride who wasn't sure if her husband would ever
see their child. Unlike in my mother's case, education wasn't a concern. No
one was offering my grandmother a scholarship, because she dropped out of
school in the third grade, to clean houses and help her mother take
care of their family.
That's an olden-days pattern, in my family. Daughters
changing their plans to help their mothers, doing whatever it took to keep
all the siblings together and keep everyone clothed and fed.
My grandmother's story
ended happily -- her beloved Wil returned from the War, and gifted her with
thirteen more children. Those that survived gave my grandmother six healthy
daughters, and six healthy sons. Enough for a football team, or a band. They
had education and enough money for all of the daughters to do what they
wanted. None of them had to drop out of school. None of them had to work
before they were ready. My mother had the luxury of choosing what she wanted
to do, and even though her choices would not be mine, I can't help but be
glad she had a choice.
My mother's decision to stick with her kids was a tough
one -- and when she became a foster mother years later, it was a choice she
made for a reason - to help other moms do what they had to do for their kids
-- get a better housing situation, get more education, serve their time or
give up their babies, and give them a chance to be raised by another mother.
For my sisters and me, my mother pays forward a chance to make a choice for
Mothers and daughters. A relationship made up of
reflections, of how much we are the same, of how we choose to be different.
I'm a lot like my mother, in ways I don't yet even see. But my choices...
and my mistakes ... are all my own.