I tried not to think about the brash histories I’d written and my damning observations: my mother’s submission in the face of my father’s temper, the persistent yearning I carried for an emotional connection with her, and my often misguided activities as a young woman that I insinuated were the result of her passivity. But my mother was happy that our book had been published, and she bought copies to give to her friends.
Then, a few months later, without my knowing, she read it again. This time, she told me she felt bad about the kind of mother she’d been to me. She wasn’t angry; she didn’t try to defend herself. She knew it was all true, and it filled her with regret. “I wish I had a second chance,” she said.
I sat holding the phone, reeling. I searched frantically for words to obliterate the sentences I’d written. “Oh, that? That’s not really what I meant,” I wanted to say, but how could I? I’d written exactly what I’d meant. What had I been thinking?
The fact was, I hadn’t been thinking — not about how my mother would react to my stories. I put her aside while I was writing. It was the only way I could be honest in how I presented my past.
My mother’s response was to be expected. What saved me was the way our story ended: she and I finding each other, establishing the kind of mother-daughter relationship that had been thwarted decades earlier. She was redeemed, and so was I.