I should preface this by admitting I am a fan of Kelly Corrigan. When The Middle Place came out in hardcover, Kelly Corrigan told an audience how her mom stopped at Borders a couple of times a week to move her books from the nowhere-land of diet books and medical narratives to a place up front in the store. Borders leaped on this, and posted the video online around Mother’s Day:
When I read that first book, I couldn’t help but notice how much Corrigan idolized her Dad, often at the expense of her mother. As a mother, I’m sure I’m sensitive. Despite the video and her talk, I wasn’t feeling the love for her mom in that book. But I cut her some slack because clearly she had a lot on her plate, and she didn’t have the luxury of time to dwell on her mother issues while she fought breast cancer and raised a family.
So now she’s back, and making amends. She tells the story of her early relationship with her mother, which, like most of us, was filled with bitter teenage angst. Her mother, for the most part, sounded just like mine, and everyone else’s I knew, except for the very rare “want to be your friend” mom. I love my daughters beyond all reason, but I don’t want to be their friend. I don’t want to be their playmate, their BFF, or any of that. Of course, I don’t like the fact that I am often the nagging, screeching, disciplinarian, and Daddy is the guy who comes home to read to them at night, and help them with their Legos. Corrigan is not to that point yet with her kids, but she’s starting to get it about her mother. Corrigan wonders if this is what her mother signed on for, or whether it was just something her parents agreed on down the road. Come on, who would sign on for that?
So that’s why, when we do get thanked, it’s so incredibly awesome. Corrigan explains her mother’s take on the tremendous amount of credit her husband gets, while she waits in the wings with the Bandaids and the bail money. “He’s the glitter, and I’m the glue.” So yes, she is not the effusive, snuggly Mom you sometimes want her to be. She is the glue. She can be sticky, and hard to manage. But she is also the one who sees you at your absolute worst, and doesn’t love you any less. The one who knows just how much to tell your Dad, knowing that for him, it may dull some of the shine you hold for him. In the end, the glitter begins to fade. The glue is what you need when you find out the cancer has returned, and you’re scared. Because that’s your mother – the one who doesn’t call you right back when she hears your devastating news, because she was busy booking the next flight out. The next time you hear her voice, she will be beside you. She will be making Jello with the girls, or teaching them a card game. She will be tucking them into bed after a story, and crying when she finally has to leave. It is in these many small moments that you will know, without a doubt, how very much she loves you. And this time, you will be profoundly grateful. And you will thank her, in the best way you know how. You will write a beautiful book.