Children are quick to pick up on what their parents value or rather, what possessions are most valued by their parents. My mother’s most prized possessions were her records and the record player. My sister and I knew that because she had a routine. Mom would get home from work, throw off her shoes (yes, literally) put on a record and collapse onto the brown faux leather sofa with a very long sigh. We were therefore very careful not to scratch any of her records but not so careful with the kitchenware.
Throughout all those nights of listening to records with mom we never heard her sing. Not once. So while my sister and I would flounce about screaming into our hairbrushes my mother would lie back and listen. Fast forward twenty years, to one sultry summer evening on a beach, when my mother quite unexpectedly tells me that she had once been approached by a respected agent who had heard her sing at a party. Turns out my mother had quite the singing voice. My mother never took up the agent’s offer of representation. She never pursued her dream of singing to audiences around the world.
This nugget of information unsettled me on so many levels. It bothered me that my mother had turned her back on a wonderful opportunity, a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. It bothered me that she had never encouraged our own creativity (she barely encouraged me to keep up with my writing) and stifled her own gifts. I felt my mother had purposefully distanced herself from my sister and I by keeping this and other stories about her youth to herself. Imagine how I would have reacted if she had come out with a dark and ugly secret!
The point is, now that I am a parent I realize just how hard it is to tell which stories we can share with our children and which are best kept private.
Do you wrestle with this dilemma or are you an ‘open book’?
My favourite novels are almost all about the corrosive effects of secrets, especially family secrets. I am sure every family has them just as I am sure that we all wrestle with various temptations and fantasies. So when a dear friend of mine gave me a copy of Sue Miller’s While I Was Gone I had to read it.
Jo Becker has a loving husband, a beautiful home, three daughters and a rewarding career yet she is plagued by a persistent restlessness. A sense that an elusive something is missing from her life and she is ‘suspended, waiting. Between all these worlds and part of none ‘. She has a sense of being “utterly present and also simultaneously, far far away.” So when an old roommate reappears and so do her memories of her life in her early 20s Jo’s impulses threaten to fracture her family.
I really connected with Jo. She is a contemporary heroine: busy, distracted (perhaps unconscious) and flawed. Aren’t we all?
What makes this a great read besides the fact that the characters are expertly captured and the story well paced is that the author’s wisdom and understanding of human nature shines through. Wonderful read! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐