Much loved

When my daughter was born, I bought two identical teddy bears. I thought it would be wise to have a back-up. It was the sort of thing someone without parenting experience might think they could get away with. It reminds me of a sitcom situation in which a small pet dies, and to escape having a conversation about death with a small child, a parent might swap a nearly identical pet, hoping their child would never know. To be clear, “Bear” has been my only back-up. And, having two bears did help when my young daughter’s reality eventually involved being shuttled between two homes.

Mothers and fathers try to do their best when assuming the most important role any person could be given. A scan of the world of books and literature makes it clear that in the scope of human experience, the relationship between parents and children provide ample material for inspection, reflection, and, sometimes, therapy. Here are some new titles coming out, and a few published in the last several years, that relate to motherhood:

Allison Pearson’s follow-up, “How Hard Can It Be?” to her bestselling “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, is hitting the shelves this month. As she approaches her 50th birthday, stay-at-home mom Kate Reddy must restart her career after her husband has a midlife crisis.

In Aimee Molloy’s debut, “The Perfect Mother”, a group of Brooklyn mothers who meet for a drink, find themselves in a chilling situation when the infant of one of them gets abducted from his crib. If you’re looking for a happy tale of motherhood, this is not it. But, it will definitely make you keep flipping the pages to discover what has truly transpired.

United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith’s memoir, “An Ordinary Light”, begins with the death of her mother twenty years earlier and continues with a beautiful excavation of who her mother was, in contrast to who her daughter has become.

An excellent fiction title to complement Smith’s memoir is Elizabeth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton”. Lucy is a writer whose estranged mother visits her as she is recovering in a hospital bed from an infection. The inability of families to clearly communicate and connect is a dance that is vividly portrayed as their relationship is illuminated through the stories that are told, and the things left unsaid.

One of my favorite photographs of my immediate family is a Polaroid, dated Christmas, 1976. All five of us are in front of the tinsel-adorned tree, and I am beaming, clutching Suzy, my very first teddy bear. Thanks to both of my parents, I carry the feeling that receiving that bear gave me. It’s the feeling of being “Much Loved”.

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