Issue 142: Housewifely Arts

For our next issue, I’m handing the introductory reins over to contributing editor Karen Friedman, who saw “Housewifely Arts” through our editorial process. Hope everyone enjoys this moving story of mothers and daughters as much as I did. The last line got me teary, every time.-HT

The first time I read “Housewifely Arts” by Megan Mayhew Bergman, I was struck by her uncanny and honest portrait of motherhood. When we meet the narrator, she’s traveling down I-95 with her seven-year-old in tow, seeking out an African Gray parrot once owned by her mother. The eight-hour journey stems from a haphazard, desperate desire to hear her deceased mother’s voice once more. As the story unfolds we learn their relationship had been full of the little fault lines that develop between mother and daughter over a lifetime.

Precisely because of their size, those little fault lines are what grabbed my attention. There’s no physical abuse, no drunken betrayals – nothing that screams, “pay attention, for now we’re in the realm of dramatic truth”. It’s a deceptively simple story about people trying their best, and sometimes falling short.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I was drawn to Megan’s story. If you could see them, the bags under my eyes are obvious, and a direct result of raising a two-year-old. In thinking about how to introduce Megan’s story to our readers, I went through an embarrassing number of drafts, waxing poetic about the ways motherhood changed me, and in particular my relationship with my own mother. I tried talking about the cult of perfect parenting (see here for a great article on that subject), or the weird trend of mother/daughter best friends (which completely creeps me out), and on and on.  But none of it seemed to do justice to the quiet elegance and humor of Megan’s prose. Everything I thought of was just too overwrought.

In the end, I love her story because it reassures me that I’m not the only person out there struggling with a lifetime of small regrets and fears of passing them on to my child. Megan writes with a deft hand, making us laugh and cry in good measure. Read our Q&A with Megan Mayhew Bergman to learn more about “Housewifely Arts”. But above all read her story. Then call your mother.

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