Terry Tempest Williams’ Mother and Poll about Mothers

Terry Tempest Williams’ Mother and Poll about Mothers
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Terry Tempest Williams on her mother’s mystifying bequest

Source: whyy.org

Twenty-five years ago, TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS’ mother died of ovarian cancer, and she left Terry 54 journals, one for each year of her life. Later, when Terry went to read them, longing to hear her mother’s voice again, she found that each one was blank. In her book, “When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice,” Williams meditates on why her mother might have left the journals unfilled. What did that signify to her mother? What was her mother telling her?

Listen to the podcast here.

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The Long-Distance Family Phenomenon

Living far away from my family isn’t as bad anymore. It used to tear me apart inside each time I’d hear of this sibling’s latest concert and that niece’s recent cuteness, the dinner everyone had together for someone’s birthday, or the trip to Island Park for a weekend at the cabin. It still hurts, but it’s bearable. On the other hand, it’s nice to have that grand trip to look forward to, where my husband, children, and I are the guest stars for a week or so.

But something inside me feels that this isn’t right. I worry that I’m missing out—losing time that could be spent getting to know my mother better (and my sister for that matter). I know her well as “mother.” It’s only been recently that I’ve felt that perhaps I only know a small part of my mom. As I slowly grow into the role of mother, I began to realize here and there the ways I don’t yet know my mother.

Things that don’t help the matter: 1) I’m not a great phone person. I would rather be there, in person, and phone conversations sometimes frustrate me. Not always, but they are really not my thing. I know plenty of women who love a good chat on the phone, but I’m not one of them. 2) When we do make a trip to visit everyone, it’s just that. We are visiting everyone (parents, siblings, cousins and friends) at once. And there’s not much time to REALLY talk. And we are busy, doing this or that. We sometimes just don’t have the right set-up during those visits to bring up and delve into the life topics—to bring out our inner selves. 3) We are kind of a private family. My mother doesn’t talk a lot about herself (I heard most of the stories I know of her childhood from my aunt). But I don’t believe it’s because she doesn’t want me to know that part of her. 4) Maybe I’m shy about it too. It’s not only with my mother that I feel the impatient longing to know someone better but don’t know how to go about it without being completely awkward. I wonder, if my mother and I were forced into a situation where we had to talk about real stuff, what would eventually be said?

My mother did the long-distance relationship with her own mother. Growing up, I lived about 460 miles away from my maternal grandma. And, if I remember correctly, we might have visited her in Oregon once a year. I’m not even sure I know how my mom dealt with the distance? Did they write back and forth frequently? Or talk on the phone?

Do you live near your parents and/or siblings? If not, do you feel sad about it? And how do you keep close despite long-distances?

{Image of my mother in college.}

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What I really want for Mothers Day…


I have to admit that I appreciate a bouquet of flowers and some very fine dark chocolate. I’ve even really liked the jewelry that my husband has given me for Mother’s Day in past years. And the Eggs Florentine that John and the kids cook from scratch and serve to me in bed is the best. But, I have this secret list of things that would mean a lot more to me than food and flowers. Someday I hope to get one (or more) of these:

1) A clean house. Do the dishes, wash & fold the laundry, clean out the kitty litter box. Mop & vacuum the floors—even in the corners and under the furniture. Find new homes for all the dustbunnies under the kids’ beds. Dust the bookcases and the piano and the chairs—every nook & cranny. Sweep the porch. Wipe the bugs and dust off of the windowsills and out of the light fixtures. Clean the fridge and maybe even the oven.
2) Lots of kisses and hugs. For each member of my family to express their love for me and for each other.
3) When you serve me breakfast in bed, play Rachmaninoff on the stereo. Instead of leaving me alone to eat my favorite meal, join me.
4) A clean car—-inside and out.
5) Some help hoeing and weeding my garden. Or clipping back the honeysuckle that grows along the fence.
6) Share your favorite family memories with me. Get out the photo box and re-live some of the past together.
7) A massage. It could be my foot, my back, my scalp, or everything in between.

So, what’s on your Mother’s Day wishlist?

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