My Motherâ€™s Dream vs Mine
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Truth.
In spite of a fourth absolutely stellar review that I will always cherish, I put a copy of Â Dark Revelations in the mail to my mom with the Â same trepidation as every time I send her one of my books. I want her, like the reviewers, to find it fascinating, intimately written, extraordinary. If she does, Iâ€™ll never hear it from her.
Considering that she was my biggest cheerleader when I was growing upâ€”always trying to keep me from getting hurt or disappointed in the evitable way she expected to happenâ€”we Â have an odd history Â related to my writing career. Itâ€™s the one thing sheâ€™s never been a Â cheerleader for, even though she really does try.
She didnâ€™t seem to mind my story-telling Â when I was three Â years Â old Â and Â rode Â to Â town Â with Â her Â every Â day (three miles away) to see my grandmother or get groceries or whatever and I would stand on the car seat beside her and sing my little heart out about brave warrior girls who fought and overcame adversityâ€”all stories I made up but undoubtedly some kind of bleed-through from past lives. This was even before the nights I would steal away with an old copy of the encyclopedia and hide behind a bed to stare at pictures of Joan of Arc being burned at the stake.
The first time she minded my story-telling and writing
abilities, I was 9 years old. Iâ€™d written a few paragraphs about a girl my age who had run away from an unhappy situation at home to answerÂ the Â call of destiny Â and go save the world. I still remember my mom making me sit at the silver, metallic kitchen table and read her the words out loud Â and tell her whether Â or not I was happy and promise Â her Â Iâ€™dÂ never Â run Â away. Â I felt Â so Â horrible, Â so guilty for causing her worry. I even swore Iâ€™d never write again, but I couldnâ€™t keep the promise.
It wasnâ€™t a promise I could have made freely because even at that Â age I was Â already Â committed Â and felt the huge struggle Â of Â trying to fight something Â in my blood and in trying to please my beloved parent. Sheâ€™d mistaken my first attempt at fiction for a confession.
Not unlike the 3rd grade teacher Â who was upset at Aislinnâ€™s Â very Â Â well-written story about Â Â Â Â Â a Â princess whose parents died in a fire and then she had to go save the kingdom on her own. Â At the age of 8, she had no intentionsÂ Â ofÂ Â becomingÂ Â aÂ Â murderousÂ Â pyromaniacÂ Â co- dependent but she certainly set off the teachers at Blue- waterÂ Â ElementaryÂ Â who didnâ€™t understand the necessity of separation from parents and loving authorityâ€”usually by death or imprisonment Â of some sortâ€”to the success of a child-heroine in popular fiction who must act alone and courageously Â in this rite of passage. I Â mean, think Disney-princess-with-a-dead-mother, will Â you? Â Â As Â Â Â Â Â Â a writer myself, I understood Â the conventions Â of the craft and gave Aislinn the encouragement she needed. The encouragement I did not get from my own mother.
Many times, I tried to quit writing, but I couldnâ€™t stay â€œquit.â€ It Â would Â eat Â at Â me Â until Â I had Â to Â do Â itÂ again. Throughout my elementary through high school years, it was a secret passion that I Â allowed some people to see but I kept it mostly hidden from my mother. My friends read my work. My teachers Â read it and raved about it. Classmates took it home to share with their parents and friends. Occasionally an adult would accuse me of plagiarizing Â it Â or Â copying Â something Â my Â parents Â must Â have written, which was always laughable, given the situation. Everyone knew I was a writer and had beenâ€”as close to can beâ€”born a writer.
But I didnâ€™t advertise it to my mother. She thought it would detract Â from Â my Â hours Â of Â music Â practice. Â Her dream for me was to do what sheâ€™d never been â€œallowedâ€ to doâ€”become Â a concert Â pianist. I took music lessons and tried to live her dream until, finally in college, I confessed to her that music just didnâ€™t call to me as strongly as Â writing Â did Â and Â always Â had. Â And Â considering Â how much I love Â music and how important Â it is in my life, thatâ€™s saying a lot.
When I was in college, I finally began sharing my writing with her again, but yet again, she misunderstood Â and assumed I must be writing every word from experience. I guess itâ€™s from my dadâ€™s side of the family that I access my imagination because she never understood how it was a Â separate Â world Â for Â me Â than Â the Â one Â I Â live Â in, Â even though bits and pieces of my mundane existence would creep into the stories or characters. Maybe she thinks all writers are retelling their personal stories in all the other books she avidly reads.
For a long time after that, I stopped writing. I focused on Â my Â career, Â my Â marriage, Â my Â masterâ€™s Â degree, Â my babyâ€¦and told myself that one day Iâ€™d have time to get around to writing those stories that populated whole universes in my head. When Shannon was 6 months old and I was busier than Iâ€™d ever been in my life, I realized that one day Iâ€™d be 90 years old and sitting in a nursing home telling myself that Iâ€™d write when I â€œgot around to itâ€ or when I â€œhad time.â€ That night, I started my first novel.
When my Â first Â book Â was Â published, Â I Â happily Â presented it to my mom and watched her cry as she read the dedication, which was to her because much of the heroineâ€™s spirit was based on hers. When she finished it, she didnâ€™t say much. She talked about what a Â good story it was. Then, of course, came the bombshell Iâ€™d been hoping wouldnâ€™t come and Iâ€™d been bracing for. Itâ€™s terribly hard for a little Baptist girl to let her prudish mother read a sex scene sheâ€™s writtenâ€¦.
My editor Â had also mentioned Â to me that my publisher had a tendency to cut at least half the profanity in manuscripts. Â I Â wanted my hero to use a little here and there as part of his characterization, Â so I put in twice the profanity I needed. Just my luck, nothing got cut! In fact, the only words Â cutÂ were Â horny, Â Jesus, Â and Â rubber. Â ( I keep forgetting that you canâ€™t call on God during a sex act without offending someone in the Bible Belt.)
So my mother, Â in her very polite Southern, Â salt-of- the-Earth sort of way, tells me how much she loved my book. Then she says, â€œYou know, I was reading a book just the other day, and it was a real good story and it didnâ€™t have any bad words in it. Or any sex.â€ She says sex with at least three syllables.
Sheâ€™d never show a lack of support, but she gets her message across.
Since then, Â sheâ€™s Â read Â a Â number Â of Â my Â books Â in manuscript Â format. Her favorite is Thunderstorms and Convertibles a book that got turned down when I lost my first editor and the new one didnâ€™t like it. Â Several years ago, my mom gave me a lighthouse Â nightlight, Â one similar to the lighthouse on the beach in the story.
â€œIâ€™ve had it for years,â€ Mama told me. â€œI was saving it for when you got Thunderstorms and Convertibles published, but looks like that isnâ€™t ever going to happen so Iâ€™m going to go ahead and give this to you now.â€ The book will be out next year, mostly as it was written in the early 90â€™s but with a few changes. She wonâ€™t like the changes Iâ€™ve made either.
But for all the manuscriptsÂ sheâ€™s read, I didnâ€™t share Dark Revelations with her before publication. Just too busy to print out a copy for her. I brace myself now for what- ever sheâ€™ll find wrong. A typo that umpteenÂ editors and read-throughs Â missed. Â A desire Â to change Â a Â major plot point. Â Something. Â Sheâ€™ll Â find Â something. Â Some Â people canâ€™t Â simply be fansâ€”they have to give a â€œfair and balancedâ€ critique and dredge up something they didnâ€™t like that is personal Â opinion and the Â author Â will take it far more seriously than the reader ever meant. But Iâ€™m sure my mom, in her very well-meaning way, will find some- thing thatâ€™s a problem. My parents did a great job of in- stilling their own insecurities in their children, but I sup- pose all parents do.
I donâ€™t mean that observation about my mom in a spiteful way. I love my mom very much and I understand the way things are with her and why they are this way. Sheâ€™d never do anything to be hurtful toward me. She doesnâ€™t mean anything Â bad by theÂ way Â she Â shows Â her supportâ€”or lack of it. Itâ€™s simply the way things are. She canâ€™t simply say, â€œI love it,â€ and if she added, â€œAnd I canâ€™t find a thing wrong with it,â€ Iâ€™d be shocked.
Iâ€™ll never be able to write the perfect book for her. But I remember being 9 years old and practicing the piano for hours on endâ€”living her dream, not mineâ€”and the whole time wanting so badly Â to close the keyboard and go write, write, write about adventurous Â girls saving the Â world. Â My Â mom Â would Â listen Â to Â me Â play Â as Â she cooked dinner or washed dishes, and for my musicâ€”for her dreamâ€”sheâ€™d always heap tons of praise on me, no matter how many wrong notes I hit.