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Austin Chronicle Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood

By Robin Bradford

MAY 10, 1999: 

Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood, Edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses, Random House, $22.95 hard

Right this moment, right close by, mothers are ... cuddling, coaxing, listening, laughing, starving themselves in protest, hiding, sleeping, waking up to crying, crying, rocking, yelling, leaving, calling, feeding, changing, working, teaching, learning, hoping, mourning. And writing.

Starting two years ago, some of their words began finding a home on the Web, via Salon magazine's "Mothers Who Think" column. Happily, some of the best have now been gathered in print in Mothers Who Think: Tales of Real-Life Parenthood, a must-read for anyone contemplating motherhood and a bible for all of us whose lives have been warped, splendored, and expanded by our dear little ones.

According to the editors' introductory "Mamafesto," Mother's Day was founded by abolitionist Julia Ward Howe as an annual meeting day for mothers to strategize on how to make the world a better place for their children. The 40 or so essays in Mothers Who Think are the field reports that would be presented at such an august meeting.

In its pages mothers "tell it like it is": our crazy anguishing labors, our unexpected sexiness, our courage in the face of bulls and other monsters, our overwhelming and shaming rage, our bitter lonesome journeys as single moms, the dull patience we have for our slow ones, our teenage sons' frightening beauty, and our good-byes to babes growing up, going away, or dying.

Introduced by Anne Lamott, whose Operating Instructions was the first real-life story of motherhood, Mothers Who Think is outrageously funny ("If Jesus wanted to tell me in great detail how he runs the fifty-year dash while I was watching the news I'd be annoyed with him too") and achingly sad ("the same bold bold boy who touched my breasts in the bathtub won't kiss me anymore -- at least not on the lips"). I want to send this book to all my "mom" friends, my therapist, my stepmom, and my real mom from whom I am estranged, along with a box of chocolates and a coupon for one night's stay in a dark, quiet hotel room.

Last week, after two action-packed, sleep-deprived years, I packed a tiny bag and got on a big plane to spend my first two nights away from my beloveds, big and little. Following my son's cue of bringing something familiar when he travels, I brought this book about being a mom on my first big getaway. And I was never lonely or afraid.


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