I have written about my mother many times, both in fiction and nonfiction. You will find at least one story about her in my book*. My mother managed to raise me without any noteworthy drama or discord—no abuse or trauma. I had a happy childhood in a sanctuary of a household with two successfully married parents, who remained gainfully employed until retirement. In the child-rearing race, my mother and father reached the finish line with their healthy and optimistic notions of the world intact. Some would argue that this is why I am not a better writer. The craft of memoir writing seems to be best mastered by people whose childhoods held at least some form of well-entrenched dysfunction. And many writers, a disproportionate number, lay their family’s dysfunction squarely at the feet of their mothers.
There are so many published mother memoirs that I could open up a bookstore, if it were currently prudent to do such a thing. I could call it About Mom and sell mother memoirs exclusively, with such a large inventory of choices that books would spill out of the front door. Often, writers begin their stories with no intention of writing about their mothers. Lori Gottlieb says as much about her memoir, Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self: “It’s not that I set out to write about my mother.” Gottlieb says. “It’s just that it’s virtually impossible to write about your childhood without writing about your mother, and people who grow up to be writers generally have some less than flattering observations to share.”*
My mother is how I have high self-esteem. She taught me about excellence and beauty and work ethic. She is the reason I had a childhood full of laughter and meaning. I suggest that perhaps she is the reason I am not a better writer because every body needs to have at least one complaint about their mother. This is the best I can muster-- that if she was not so damned perfect, I'd have more to endure and to overcome, and thusly, more pain to wrench out of my soul until beautiful prose drips out. There would be more complexity to my personality. I'd had greater reasons to triumph and the victory would be more meaningful, if only my mother were awful. But alas, she just isn't. I know I am lucky and there is just no drama or intrigue in this truth! But it is what it is!
Happy Mother's Day to everybody's Mama. The one's who have created great writers and the one's who've managed not to!
*Partial excerpt from A Story That Matters: A Gratifying Approach to Writing About Your Life