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Story pick: The mysteries of our mothers


As a reader, I often approach holidays, like Mother's Day, that are manufactured by greeting card companies, with some trepidation. The subject, as profound and complicated as it is, often gets sentimental and cliched treatment. Thus, it is with refreshing surprise that I have one long and three short picks of the day today that explore the mysterious connections we have with our mothers, or as mothers, with our children.

My colleague on the Story Lab team, Steve Hendrix, writes with humor and wistfulness in The Washington Post Magazine about getting to know his mother through reporting about the lives she not only touched as a teacher one year but ultimately helped deeply shape, in a way he simply could not as a young boy on the verge of adolescence. And, because that year also turned out to be the last one she had on earth, never had a chance to.

This scene, then - with the author choosing to keep his nose in a book - played out in countless ordinary households on any given afternoon, becomes agonizing.

"Look at this puppet that Brian Hewitt made," she said, standing in front of me with a llama dressed in a Mexican serape. "Have you ever seen anything so adorable?"

Se pulled the book down an inch. "Why don't you make one?" she asked. "We'll do it together."

"Maybe later," I murmured ...

Libby Copeland, a former colleague at the Post and now a new mother and freelance writer in New York, writes achingly on the Post's Op Ed pages of the wonder in the absolutely ordinary moments of watching a child grow and the agony that comes with knowing that those moments, that time, no matter how much you want to linger over them or hold on to them, race by with breathless, relentless and unstoppable force.

And finally, in the New York Times' Sunday Opinion, five artists' delightfully weird and nostalgic drawings and writings of their favorite dish their mothers prepared. And an excerpt from "The Good Daughter," an upcoming memoir by Jasmin Darznik, assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University. The author, a daughter of Iranian immigrants who fled the Islamic Revolution in 1979, thought she knew her mother. Until she found an old photograph.

It’s difficult to imagine our mothers as women with stories and selves that exist separately from ours. So firmly do we hold onto the mothers of our memories that even as adults faced with some irrefutable proof of their lives before and apart from us, we still insist on our own versions of their lives.

After I confronted my mother about the photograph, the truth of her life came out haltingly and imperfectly. Even now, a decade later, there are many parts of it that I don’t understand and can’t square with my memories of her.

By Brigid Schulte  | May 10, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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