A Mother’s Writer’s Block

Filed Under (To Get To The Other Side, Writing) by Estee on 16-11-2009

There are days I’m not sure how to write. This ache of inertia stops me short — what do I tell, what do I leave out? It’s a problem, actually, of writing about oneself; a problem that many writers experience when writing about life.

The mother always has to think twice. More like a thousand times a day. A mother has to wear a shield around her so she does not upset the children she loves so much. A mother has to be solid, grounded — a monolith MOTHER as described on the tombstones in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto where many of us Torontonians walk and run through every day like Central Park. I know, it’s a more melancholy park, you’re thinking. But it’s truly spectacular for it’s scale and landscape in the centre of our city. I walk by stone angels here almost every day. “Beloved wife of,” “Mother of.” That seems to be our legacy — and while it is an important one, it is peripheral and lonely. I am reminded of Margaret Laurence and her Hagar.

MOTHER – it describes everything and nothing out here in the cool fall air. If I were not a mother, I’d be pining to be one, envious of the epithet. If you don’t know me, now you do in part. I wanted a child so badly and had I not had one, I’d be crying now. I walk among the stones reading them, picking up brown oak leaves that smell fragrant as they decompose, wondering what my stone will read. I gather the oak leaves in my hand because that’s what I do when I go out on my walks. I collected my first three four-leaf clovers this year after looking for the previous forty-two of them. I would look for hours as a child. I’d search within the thick bush of clover knowing that one day I’d find my luck, but all I found were the common three-leaved variety. The rich green mass became too overwhelming to continue the search, and mother called me in for dinner. I found three this year when I wasn’t looking, and in the nick of time. Going through a separation while recovering from cancer surgery was the worst event of my life, so someone wanted to tell me something, I figure. Now, I pick up four oak leaves because the oak tree symbolizes strength and courage and you must know me — I’ve got a lot of that.

We are born into this life, a blank slate of possibilities and stories to be written. The stone that remains is a summary. The men in this cemetery typically get some interesting descriptions – heroes and veterans particularly so. I look for the mothers and wives, thinking that, like the sullen ambrosia of the leaves and earth, our time here is short but never lost; the earth and leaves beneath my feet are the smell of life that goes on forever. Dust to dust indeed — our fragrance is sweet.

Among phallic monuments erected to the family name or patriarch of the family, I’m particularly drawn to a modest stone laid just before it on the slant of a gentle hill. Sitting low to the ground, an older worn stone with the block letters spelling MOTHER. She is modest there in front of the huge piece of marble pricking the empty sky.

Underneath the “monolith,” the woman’s world is rich and wrought with things some children will never know. Why is it that men do not hide their desires as well? Why do they live out loud? Why do they get to?

It’s a problem, really, as a writer. I could dress her up in fictitious clothes – a universal mother, woman with desires and unmet dreams, who has been hurt, who has stories that can never be told, or if they are, told carefully.

I write around and around her like a rubber tube spinning so much harder and faster than the centre of the rim. The core that stands so open, awaiting the spear of the archer’s arrow, or my pen. Yet it compels, so to want to get to know her. I wish I could grab a cup of tea and look through her photo albums, have a woman-to-woman chat. I bet she shared her life with many of her friends. I bet she has a great story that should have been told. I bet it would have helped my own.

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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.