Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lift by Kelly Corrigan: A Review

Lift by Kelly Corrigan

I found this on the library shelf while looking for something else. It felt more like a miracle than simple luck as it is not much bigger than my hand and could so easily have been lost in the burgeoning lacuna of my vision. But it managed to catch my ailing eye. I suspect it was the butterfly as myself, a sister and a niece all have profound connection to the butterfly and all it symbolizes. At any rate I picked it up and I opened it and read the first several pages and when I found myself laughing out loud--in the library mind you--I knew I needed to just take it home.

It is a letter written by a mother to her young daughters for them to read once they are much older--possibly not until they are grown with children of their own.

The bit that had me laughing out loud? She shares the story of how she herself as a young daughter had gone after a bug on the windshield of the family car by stomping on it from the wrong side of the glass until the pane cracked repeatedly.

The title and the image of the butterfly refer to the theme. Lift is a term used by pilots, hang-gliders, kite fliers, ornithologists and anyone else for whom aerodynamics plays any role. It refers to the updrafts that keep those on the wing aloft. The significance of these updrafts in terms of this essay is the fact they can only exist because of the turbulence caused by the meeting of cool air with the thermals or columns of warm air. The same confluence can as easily create a sink which has yanked many a winged thing out of the sky.

And thus the tears as well as the laughter in this long musing on the meaning of motherhood--the story of her youngest daughter's bout with viral meningitis as a baby, the sudden death of a friend's son, the shame felt after hearing her eldest daughter's teacher describe the child's edgy temper and impatience and realizing this was what she had been modeling for her.

But in spite of all the anxiety, the threat of heartbreak, the messes and minor mishaps, the shamful missteps she tells her girls it was all worth it. She tells them if she were forced to choose between the too fates of cancer and infertility for them she, a two-time cancer survivor, would choose cancer. She tells them so often that 'This (motherhood) was her dream. That they were her dream, they have taken to saying the lines with or for her.

Reading these Mommy Memoirs is always bittersweet for me as such had been my dream from the age of seven (if not sooner) on up. But I never did get to live it myself. Instead I filled the hole at various times by collecting baby dolls and Madonna & Child pictures, babysitting, doting on nieces and nephews and gorging on stories featuring children whether print, screen or gossip; whether fiction or true.

As if to emphasize this huge lacuna in my life while my emotions were tenderized by Corrigan's story while I was still at the dinner table our neighbor from across the driveway brought by her new twin granddaughters. I only got to see them through the screen as my MIL wasn't sure how their dog would handle having two adults and two infants swarm in on him. Being the daughter of a twin, having twins was my dream.

It is only eighty-some small pages so is really more of a long essay than a book. I started it over this afternoon and read it practically in one sitting and would have if not for the call to dinner. I read the last ten pages as soon as I could get back to the room.

Anyone who's ever had a child or a mother would find something to savor in this little book.

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