While Mothers’ Day in our house has never been cause for elaborate brunches and extravagant gifts, I have been on the receiving end over the years of some awesome bath products. Commercialism aside, Mothers’ Day does make us think about our mothers – or about mothers in general. In my fiction life, it makes me think about two mothers in particular, Eileen Sanford in The Good Life and Claire Thompson in The Summer Cottage.
Eileen is a Pennsylvania farmer’s wife, now saddled with a dementia-ridden farmer. Her only child, Ann, long ago left behind the chores and grange events, in favor of the one percent life in Michigan with her CEO husband. When Eileen and Sam move in with Ann and her family until space opens up in an assisted living facility, Eileen brings farm living and its home-cooking values along with her.
Readers love Eileen because: 1) she has a very good heart, and 2) her efforts at reacquainting Ann with what matters in life are well intentioned. Readers have more trouble with Ann because 1) she is a hedonist, and 2) she is rich, offering no apology for enjoying the bountiful fruits of her husband’s labor. And while Ann could definitely use some head twisting about how she spends her time, should she accept the medicine-on-the-spoon approach from her mother?
Claire Thompson, like Eileen, has an agenda. She issues mandates, and is not necessarily concerned with how they’re perceived. Her straight talk and competitive nature hit her children where they are most vulnerable, driving a wedge between parent and offspring. But is Claire evil? Or does she push her four children to excel, to refuse to settle for less than goal.
There may be a reason my mother characters tend to be hard headed. But know this: strong-willed mothers are not always as tough as they appear; their hard-to-follow advice is sometimes sound; and their love for their children is boundless.