The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, November 29, 2007


by Tricia Dower

Ta da! Behold the cover of my almost-a-book. Although I wasn’t involved in its design, it is absolutely perfect. Absolutely my vision of the little girl in the title story. That someone was able to translate my words into that perfect image thrills me.

My sister, Lili, said, “Our parents are so proud, I’m sure.” Well, I don’t know how aware they are — they died in 1995, five months apart — but I do think of them often, especially my mother’s unrealized dream of writing.

Both of our parents sacrificed to earn Dad's degree from Rutgers University. For him, eight years of night school after working all day. For her, eight years alone with two daughters, feeding us hot rice and milk, squeezing the life out of a nickel. When he graduated, we had a big party with a sheet cake — the expensive one with cherry filling. Everyone praised his determination and hard work.

Mom said she wanted to go to school, next, to become a teacher or a writer. Dad felt his degree was sufficient to support the family. He regretted the stand he took, later, as illness became her career and she turned into a ‘silent girl,’ depression, pain and medication leaving her uncommunicative.

Surprisingly Dad died first. No need for my sister and me to speak at the funeral. The church was full of those he touched with his love and generosity. Many testified about how he’d been there for them throughout their lives like a second brother, uncle, or father.

Five months later, we wondered who would speak for our mother.

The night before that funeral, Lili found an envelope of poems, articles and stories as well as rejection slips from Reader’s Digest and Ladies Home Journal. Into the early morning I compiled and edited some of our mother's work for the eulogy. I’d been aware over the years that, from time to time, she emerged from her defeated state to write and attempt to get published, but I hadn’t seen some of the pieces. A few were corny: Yankee Doodle went to town/He went as an equestrian/ Yankee Doodle found a crap game/And went home a pedestrian. Others moved me with their promise: How beautifully clean is this morning/Washed in the rain, dried in the sun.

As I read her poem about the child she lost between my sister and me, I saw my daughter wipe her eyes. Her son was just over a year old at the time and I figured that was why.

“No,” she said, later. “I was thinking about what she could have been.”

I’m not trying to be my mother’s voice in my writing, but her unfulfilled life has guided me for years. For her sake, I am trying to be all I can be, to let my own voice be heard. Absolutely.


Blogger Anne said...

Wow, this was a shocking post. Celebratory and sad.

p.s. And that is a beautiful cover!

Thu Nov 29, 07:02:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Sharon Hurlbut said...

I can't think of a better tribute to your mother, Tricia. Congratulations on the new book!

Thu Nov 29, 09:55:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I was very moved by your post, Tricia. Often men's generosity, work, sacrifice are public and they get acknowledged, and often women's generosity, work and sacrifice is in the private sphere- the realm 'behind the scenes'- and they do not get the same level of recognition. The vision of your parents' two funerals is a powerful revelation of this phenom. But you are voicing and living the worth of both your parents, in your success, which is your achievement but which rides on the things they were able to provide for you. I can so relate this to my family and many families I know. Bless you. And congrats on the book- it's getting so close, I can almost feel the pages turning under my fingers the smell of the paper... Can't Wait!

Thu Nov 29, 12:40:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Anne, Sharon, Andrew. Sorry to shock you, Anne! What you say is so true, Andrew, and was even more true in my mother's day. I didn't respect her contribution, either, when I was growing up. It was just expected that a woman would live a life of reflected glory, content with recognition one day a year. As a "willful" young woman, I wanted more for myself. I wanted to be my father.

Thu Nov 29, 01:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

You've expressed this common expereince so beautifully, Tricia. Will you write a dedication in your collection?

Thu Nov 29, 03:15:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Jen. I do plan to write a dedication, but to someone else.

Thu Nov 29, 03:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Chumplet said...

How sweet and wonderful and sad, all at the same time. The cover is lovely.

Thu Nov 29, 04:14:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Chumplet. That's life, isn't it? Sweet, wonderful and sad all at the same time.

Thu Nov 29, 05:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

An amazing and beautifully written post, Tricia. I love the image for your book, too. Your parents must be very, very proud indeed.

Thu Nov 29, 08:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

What an amazing cover. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself in this post, Tricia. But I guess that is what writing is for.

Thu Nov 29, 08:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Mel. Thanks, Steve. So glad you like the cover. I hope you'll be seeing it in bookstores soon.

Thu Nov 29, 09:31:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Tricia, I'm so happy for you. And what a lovely post. How poignant that what you felt your sister must have been feeling was not quite right; that you are able to take your vision of yourself that step further is pure inspiration. It's a beautiful cover, and a fitting tribute.

Fri Nov 30, 05:33:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Ruth Taylor said...

I'm late chiming in here, Tricia, but congratulations on a beautiful cover. Your post was very moving. I'm lucky, I think, because my children do seem to recognize the amount of work I do for them, but I'm afraid it is probably because I gripe about it so much!

Fri Nov 30, 11:57:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Tamara. Do you mean what my daughter was feeling at the funeral?

Thanks, Ruth. You keep on griping!

Fri Nov 30, 12:08:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Margot Miller said...

Congratulations, Triica. I think you would like the work of Patricia Hampl,, you haven't already read it, speaking of the influence of the unfulfilled mother - a favorite theme of mine, too. Such a lovely introduction here as well. And in some ways, when we give the mother a voice, claiming at the same time our own, we enrich both.

Fri Nov 30, 03:14:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Margot. I don't know Patricia Hampl's work. I'll look into it. My collection isn't about my mother but it does give voice to other women, all fictitious, a few of them mothers, a few struggling with self determination.

Fri Nov 30, 05:44:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Of course you're thinking of your mother. You're a deeply honest and courageous woman, strong like hell as my own father used to say. Your little tribute hits the spot. You done good.

Fri Nov 30, 07:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

ps, the photo won't show for me!

Fri Nov 30, 07:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Gee, thanks, Tony. Sometimes I feel pretty cowardly. Maybe it doesn't show.

Fri Nov 30, 08:49:00 pm GMT-5  

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