Friday, July 25, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

Dear Readers,

I sometimes think I wouldn’t have survived without my imagination. My mother abandoned me when I was an infant and my father and grandmother raised me. My father was gone for long hours, working as a butcher. My grandmother worked hard, too, cleaning, cooking, and caring for me, my sister, and my cousins.

But grandmother loved stories—told dozens of them…and almost every afternoon, after school, while she did the ironing, we watched the 4:00 pm movie. Bette Davis, Lena Horne, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and more. Together, we escaped into imagination. Watching our small black and white TV screen, listening to Grandmother’s oral storytelling, we escaped, disappearing into worlds where we weren’t poor, ill, and beset by racism and life’s problems. I write about my grandmother in PORCH STORIES, and it is not an exaggeration to say grandmother saved my life with stories and her wondrous imagination. She gave me my profession, but, perhaps, more importantly, she gave me a coping mechanism.

Why did my mother abandon me, my sister, and father? The answer is complicated. But as a child I dreamed stories in which I was loved and very much wanted. When I was scared, I made up heroic tales for myself.

Last Friday, my twenty-year-old daughter’s apartment was robbed. She is safe! So is her cat! But after only six days in her first apartment ever, she had everything stolen from her. I immediately flew out to support her and to help move her to a safer apartment and replace some of her needed items (like a computer! A cat carrier!).

My daughter is fine. Strong. Resilient. But, at night, after working to assist all day, I found myself curled up on the floor on a slim mattress pad, exhausted physically, but dreaming, spinning stories. I thought of my work-in-progress on HURRICANE LEVEE BLUES, my new children’s novel, NINTH WARD. But I also dreamt up an entire new novel—jotting notes and feeling powerful emotions about being a mother.

For obvious reasons, the mother-child relationship is so important to me. I am still traumatized that someone robbed my daughter—that she could have been hurt. But I now understand better than ever, that I tell stories to ease my own fears and sadness and to create worlds where I am in control. Mothers never leave their daughters. Justice prevails. Strong, good women are appreciated by society, friends, and lovers.

My imagination is now in hyperdrive. Children grow and truth be told, us, parents, can never protect our children from everything. So, alone, after I’ve tried to be the best mother I can, I dream, I imagine, I write.

I am coping with the real world—with real problems, by pouring my passions into narrative. I guess as long as I’m alive, I’ll keep writing stories. But now I understand better than ever how stories help me destress, help me live a more productive life.

My daughter is fine and I can’t help but smile, for my daughter is a writer, too. When trials come her way, maybe, like her Mom, she’ll not only deal with them but also create worlds of imaginative power.

Love to all of you…the whole wide world,


JayDee said...

Hi, Jewell--
It's great to read your blog and hear about what's going on. I'm glad your daughter is safe!

I'm looking forward to your new books...and I'm sending you an update!


Joy! said...

Hello Dr. Jewell:

Motherhood is complicated. Here's an example. While at the Black Writers and Reunion Conference in Tampa a couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to eat lunch with you after attending your awe-inspiring seminar on developing narrative at the sentence level! You so graciously invited several of us to join you for lunch. However, I'd told my kids-- all teens 19, 17 and 15 that I'd have lunch with them and they'd come over from the Hilton in the rain to eat with me. So I left your table and joined them with a hole in my heart that I'd once again placed them first and missed a level of growth and some kernel of truth that I would have gained by listening to you that I know I didn't gain at the table with them for THAT moment in time :) AARGH!

I do plan to buy your new book and look forward to reading Douglass' Women from which you read. Please let me know if you'll be anywhere in Florida. (I'd be glad to try and arrange a reception for you!)

Sincerely- Joy Jones

Anonymous said...

The desire to protect our children is very strong. I also have a daughter. Whenever, harm comes her way, I go into hyperimagination mode also; however, I don't write anything down. It's more like I turn into super problem solving and effective listening mom. I'm able to speak to her in a way that makes the storm to go away. Maybe, unconsciously I'm praying outloud. To open the door to more positive energy, maybe I shall begin to write after these experiences because she's able to move on and I'm twisted lol. I agree, chaos will, at times, pay us a visit. And good coping skills help us move on ... what's better than writing a story to change the ending or release toxic feelings.

Thanks for sharing,

Sandra R.