As my children approach their teenage years, I’ve often wondered how they will view their childhoods once they’ve grown up; specifically, when they begin their own journeys through parenthood. As a mother, my intention is to make the best decisions I can with the information I’ve got in the moment. I, like all mothers, want the very best for my children – new experiences to open new possibilities, happy days filled with fond memories, and the knowledge that they had unconditional love every single day of their lives. Do we look like that picture-perfect, happy family every day? No. Do I lose my cool and yell at them? Yes, sometimes. But I strive to do my best every day, whether or not they know (or understand) my motives and intentions.
In the book, Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan, Nora’s mother died when she was young, leaving her feeling like she was responsible for raising her younger sister, Theresa. Because of her early role as ‘mother’, Nora was often the mature and responsible one while Theresa was much more carefree and wild. When Nora’s fiance sent for her from America, she and Theresa journeyed across the ocean to begin their new lives in Boston. (Read the full synopsis here.) What follows begins a long, and complicated, family drama that captured my heart.
As a mother – shoot, as a human being – there are so many layers and depths to us as individuals that no one else could possibly know. We bury secrets – good and bad – deep in our souls and only visit them when triggered. But there are choices made based on experiences that may have happened long ago, yet remain buried deep within ourselves, continuing to drive our decisions. As a mother, how do these past experiences drive our parenting choices? When taken out of context, do those choices look silly, controlling, or ridiculous? Yet when understood from all points, do they suddenly make perfect sense?
This story made me wonder what kind of things my children would question about my parenting choices, yet if given the full context, they’d suddenly see with a new perspective. As a rule, I’m very open and honest with my children, but I’m sure there are many things that make me ‘me’ without my conscious thought. Things that happened over the course of my life that have rooted themselves to my personality and influence the choices I make, not only as an adult, but as a person as well. There isn’t some giant secret I’m hiding like Nora and Theresa, but it still made me wonder how much you truly ever know someone. I believe it’s impossible to know every single detail that makes a person whole, yet I’m fascinated with the intricacies of those defining details.
The writing of Saints for All Occasions was beautiful and I found so many passages that I’d have to stop and read again – then underline – then re-read again. A few that made me wipe a tear from my eye. When I finished the book, I just sat on the couch, clutching it to my chest, and thought about all the complicated layers that make up a life. The story is a gorgeous depiction of life – marriage, motherhood, family, sacrifice, and grief. It was a book I couldn’t put down, yet I also found that I made myself intentionally slow down while reading it so I could savor every single detail.