The Mom Book
Many a mother would like to stop time and capture her children in the moment, in all their glorious complexity. Here, one writer explains how a homemade gift she receives every year fulfills that wish, and more.
The tradition began in 1995. My closest friend had given me a blank book, an unintentional symbol for a mother whose life
was blank indeed.
My husband, Dan, had died from cancer just over a year earlier. Our son Rob, at 11, was angry; Danny, eight, was bewildered; Martin had just turned six and was terrified. The changes that would make us feel as if we could breathe again—the publication of my first novel and Francie, the baby girl I would adopt as a single mom—lay down the road. But I didn’t want my boys’ childhood years and their camaraderie to be sacrificed to grief. I tried to like fishing; I tried to pitch baseballs to my sons in the yard at night—two of the things they had loved to do with their dad. I found that I couldn’t be their father and their mother, too. I realized we needed rituals that would help define our new family.
Casting about for ways to bind our wounds—and bind us to one another—I remembered a story about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, also a widow, who had asked her two children to copy out poems to give to her and their grandparents on holidays. Caroline Kennedy fondly remembered the activity well into adulthood.
Inspired, I handed my sons the blank book and asked them to write me something…anything. Martin’s first entry was on Mother’s Day, drawn in yellow crayon (which meant it practically vanished like a portrait on sand once I laminated the page). It was a stick figure with wild curls holding the hand of a tiny kid. Above us floated something that looked like a dirigible with wings holding a fishing pole with a live one dangling from the string. Although he had gone fishing, for good, Dan was apparently still watching over us.
In 1999 I remarried. My second husband, Chris, adopted my four children, and over the next few years we had three more kids. At some point, there was a discussion about whether the Mom Book should become the Mom-and-Dad Book. A sweet notion, but I quickly squashed it. The Mom Book was reserved exclusively for my children and me.