Why Sylvia? Why Now?

Because she was the first, and worst, supermom.

That sort of declaration--and the fact that she never followed through on it--sticks in a kid's mind, and not necessarily in an unhealthy way. What it said to us was that our mom was more than our mom, that there was more to life than us and dinner and dishes, and that, despite her yearnings for more, she was going to fight to fuse her selves into a whole. Plath's and Gaines's and others' stories are tragic, partially because they didn't or couldn't get help, but just as interesting are the ones about the day-to-day thrashings that never quite reach the end of their rope.

Stories like the ones that belong to my wife and her friends, who struggle and juggle and pass out at the end of the day and get up and do it all over again. Or to my sister, a high-powered cardiologist who dreams of chucking it all to wait tables and hang with her kids. Or to Hawkins, a journalist-editor-mother who wrote, "God help me if I live to see the day where my self-esteem is tied to the sheen of my porcelain." Or to my friend Pam, a lawyer-mother of two whose lesbian pal takes her drumming and dancing to "contribute to the delinquency of a mother."

Or to Plath herself, who wrote, "Perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified. But oh, I cry out against it."

 

Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or jwalsh@citypages.com

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