Book review: 'Glitter and Glue: A Memoir' by Kelly Corrigan

I am a huge fan of Kelly Corrigan. Her wit and humor are so refreshing, and she has a way of making you laugh and cry on the same page. Up front, you must know that this is more fan mail than review.  

Daughters can often spend most of their teenage years trying to escape from a mother's grasp – whether it be the voice in the back of our minds or an audible interference in daily activities. Some of us spent much of our angsty years trying to break free, convinced that our mother knows very little. She doesn't understand us, she doesn't get us. Most of what she has to say is completely outdated and there's no way it's applicable to our lives. In her memoir, Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan recounts traveling to the other side of the world in her early adulthood to escape her mother's voice.  She quickly discovered that no matter how far she traveled, her mother's voice remained.

This book is truly a celebration of discovering how much a mother's voice can come to us as adults with better clarity and understanding. For Corrigan, it's the realization that she was not usually interfering for the sake of interference. Rather, she was desperately using what time she had to prepare her child. She writes, "When I was growing up, my mom was guided by the strong belief that to befriend me was to deny me the one thing a kid really needed to survive childhood: a mother. Consequently, we were never one of those Mommy & Me pairs who sat close or giggled. She didn't wink at me or gush about how pretty I looked or rub my back to help me fall asleep. She was not a big fan of deep conversation, and she still doesn't go for a lot of physical contact. She looked at motherhood less as a joy to be relished than as a job to be done, serious work with serious repercussions, and I left childhood assuming our way of being with each other, adversarial but functional, was as it would be." 

I love how Corrigan inserts her mother's words verbatim throughout the book. Phrases such as:

"Like I think electricity grows on trees." 

"Remember, Kelly, today is about the good Lord, so let's focus our thoughts on Jesus and Mary."

"Children, Kelly. Goats have kids. Are they goats?" 

As she was desperately trying to become an adult, Corrigan realized she needed all of the things that her mother had said. Whether she wanted to hear them again or not it didn't matter; they were there, popping up in the back of her mind. She found herself searching for her mother in places she did not expect, such as within her mother's favorite book, My Antonia, curious to know why her mother finds it "absolutely marvelous." 

Reflection is automatic while reading this book. I found myself wondering what things must play on a loop in the back of my daughter's minds. What were the things that I said more often than I realized that speak to them now in their adulthood? I can guess some will have to do with being a lady and germs. I can certainly pick out many things my mother felt were important that I have heard whispered to me – things like being a lady and germs. Some things sure stick. 

A giant yes came toward the end of this book, when Corrigan realizes, after her own forray into motherhood, just how much her mother knew. She quotes her mother - "it's our job to be on their side" – referring to both our children and our parents. It's an important lesson, isn't it?  It's not about agreeing wholeheartedly with either. It's about being their cheerleader, making sure they know someone is on their side no matter what. But most of all when it comes to our mothers, it's important to dive into what we don't know about them when they're here to answer. Corrigan realizes that even questions such as "Why wasn't I allowed to have a blow dryer?" are important to have answered. I love that Corrigan ends her book with the discovered awareness of just how important it is that as we bloom (or burst) into adulthood, it is vital that we discover our mothers and all of those unknowns and all of the whys. But also it's important to explore all of the what do I do whens because after all mom probably has an answer for that.