Dear Ms. Q,
My mother did not go to Catholic school like you did, though she wanted to be a nun for a time. This seems odd to me since she’s Mormon and we don’t have nuns.
You are liberal, my mama is quite conservative. You’ve worked as a journalist and novelist for decades while my mother’s newspaper career ended before I was born. She lives in Alaska, you’re in the east.
And yet, with all these differences, your writing is the main way in which I’ve ever come to know my mother. She never tells stories about growing up. In your essays, the first thing I read in every issue of Newsweek, I saw a glimpse of my mother’s childhood. Wearing a dress to school every day, worrying about the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. The games you played, the Chatty Cathy pull string doll.
Your novels (I’ve read every word) feature women figuring things out when life takes an unexpected turn. My mom doesn’t talk about her problems, not even to a counselor, so what your characters think and do is my only clue into her interior world. I appreciate the kindness you give to these befuddled ladies, rather than poking at their faults. That’s how I know you really see them … and that you and my mom know the same things.
Thank you for giving me a clue about who my mom is. Thank you for writing about navigating parenthood and making me feel like it was a struggle for other women as well. Thank you for being my companion on the page for more than 20 years. I hope our relationship won’t end any time soon, because then I won’t have any idea what to talk to my mom about.
Your new book is great, of course.
Has anyone helped you come to know your parents better? I thought a lot about this after reading this post over at FMH.
Eliana Osborn was raised on cold weather and wild animals in Anchorage, Alaska, setting the stage for her adult life in the Sunniest Place on Earth in Arizona. She grew up in the church and didn't know there were places where conformity was preached. She has degrees. She writes. She teaches. She has some kids. She even has a husband. She's trying to do her best.