This Mother’s day my brother and I traveled back, in our memory, to the first time our mother took us to her native island home of the Dominican Republic. My brother was 12 and I was 10. We spent the summer at a relative’s country home in Manzanillo, located in the province of Monte Cristi, in the northwest region of the tropical island. One day while exploring the grounds, my brother and I discovered a nesting chicken hidden in some shrubs. My brother peered closer for a better look. Bad move. But what did we know? We were city kids: Brooklyn, New York. The hen zoomed out after my brother. With the wing span of a Learjet and her neck stretched taut trying to peck him, she chased him around the yard. My brother ran, hands straight out in front of him, just like in the cartoons, frantically calling, “Mommeee!” Mom banged aside the screen door and flew out of the house, a straw broom in her hand, and shooed the mama bird back to her place.
My brother never went back to the Dominican Republic.
That event made me reflect on how much mothers do to protect their children. Whether human or animal, they are fierce defenders of their little ones. What’s more, human mothers ignore age. In her eyes, you’re always her baby . . . and she can still cut you down to size if need be.
I continued my thoughtful journey recalling some of my favorite books and films that celebrate mothers. As the character Sophia from the television sitcom The Golden Girls would say, “Picture it. Sicily. 1868.” But for this first title, it’s not Sicily. It’s America.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868. The star might be the character Jo, but Marmee is the real hero raising four daughters while her husband is away serving in the Civil War. And just as relevant today with spouses in military service.
I Remember Mama was a 1948 film about a Norwegian family, but the matriarch embodies mothers of all cultures: the tireless, resourceful heart of the family.
A widow and a mother with very little money during the Great Depression, actress Sally Field in the 1984 film, Places in the Heart, struggles to keep her children with her and the Ku Klux Klan at bay.
Then there are those brave enough to stand up against the status-quo. In The Blind Side, 2009, Sandra Bullock portrays the Caucasian mother who opens her heart and her home to a homeless black youth.
And who wouldn’t want a mom who takes on bullies, like Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1986 film, Aliens?!
Honor goes also to the many grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, who often champion the grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and siblings in their care.
Perhaps the most heart-rending examples of motherhood are those who, in order to save their child, must give them away.
The Broadway musical, Miss Saigon, was inspired by the decision a Vietnamese woman made during the fall of Saigon to send her child away for the chance at a better life. Reminiscent of that other self-less mother, Jochebed, who in order to save her son from the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all male newborns, set her infant adrift on the Nile entrusting her baby Moses into the hands of a greater King.
We have a sorrowful saying in Spanish, “Una madre puede criar doce hijos, pero doce hijos no pueden cuidar una madre,” which translated means that while one mother is able to raise and care for twelve children, those twelve children, when grown into adulthood, can’t find the time to care for their one mother.
May it never be!
See you next time on June 22nd.
I’ll Always Love My Mama
Every story has them.
Understudies equipped to step in, extras cheering from the sidelines, others who provide comic relief, or distill information. They stand on call ready to support the main character. Humbly, they recede into the background making room for the protagonist to shine in the spotlight. These hidden characters move the story forward helping to carry it to a successful conclusion. Yet, after the applause or the publication award, we may not even remember their names.
If art, be it written or visual, mirrors real life, I cannot help but consider the everyday, seemingly ordinary people in this story called Life.
I hope this post endures as a testament to all of those hidden characters who are comforting, serving, and giving their all to help others during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Behind the scenes and on the frontlines, they nurse and comfort the sick. Fighting through tears and exhaustion, they carry the healed into the spotlight of wholeness, and then recede into the shadows to continue the fight.
The “extras” keep our streets clean and safe. They brave the roads to ensure that our old and our young can give thanks for the food we are about to receive.
To all of the hidden, invisible and unseen characters, I see you bright and clear.
More importantly, there is one who sits in heaven above who sees and knows all of your works. Your labor of service, dedication and love resonate throughout the land, an anthem, a hymn to life.
God sees you.
I see you.
See you next time on May 22nd.
Smelling something unpleasant? Not really. It’s more an expression of disagreement or disappointment about a particular place or event, which demonstrates how often we use the sense of smell to reveal emotion and understand our world.
We ‘smell a rat’ when we suspect something is wrong.
We ‘sniff out a traitor’ and follow the clues that uncovers an enemy.
We wake up and ‘smell the coffee’ to become more alert and aware.
And perhaps the most famous example would be that of Marcellus, an officer in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, who states, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” to express that things are unsatisfactory.
Scientists tell us that fear emits its own scent which explains why people who are afraid of bees, cats, or dogs seem to attract them the most.
On the positive side, ‘stopping to smell the roses’ encourages us to take time to appreciate life. The arrival of a pleasant person, or relief from a difficult situation can be like smelling a ‘breath of fresh air.’
And men and women alike know the attractive power of colognes and perfumes. (But that’s the subject for a different type of post.)
So, what does all of this have to do with writing? Much! Like ‘Show Don’t Tell’, using the sense of smell can be a useful tool to create more emotional and dynamic scenes that engage the reader.
In Disney’s animated film, Tarzan, (1999), the gorilla Kala is led by her senses to a treehouse. There she smells danger. Her vision takes in the overturned furniture and destruction that denotes a fight took place. Following her senses, she discovers the baby Tarzan. Her heart goes out to the baby and she adopts him as her own. Sigh. Ain’t love grand?
Not one word of dialogue. But a masterful use of the senses to evoke emotion and create a powerful scene.
If my writing could draw someone in like the welcoming scent of a delicious pie, envelop them in a hypnotic aroma of coffee or tea, and keep them reaching for more, I will be in scentsational writer heaven!
See you next time on April 22nd.
While there is so much concern and controversy over climate change, I am more fearful about the future of our own environment: that of words, writing and speaking.
Nowadays, it seems that one must be a meteorologist; able to gauge and predict social climatic conditions, because you never know who you might offend if your views run contrary to the prevailing winds. A particular topic might heat things up. A storm rages. The dissenting voice is silenced.
It seems we are still living the lyrics to the popular 1968 song by Sly and the Family Stone, Everyday People:
“…There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one, trying to be a skinny one…
The news, social media, college campuses, and politics will most likely continue their tug of war. But I hope that the writing community will elevate itself above that fray and be able to provide a safe haven where every voice lifts up on the wings of freedom, and where every voice is welcomed and heard.
See you next time on March 22nd.
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?
by Marguerite Quantaine
Cantine Kilpatrick Publications, 2019
Relationships are delicate. They take time to cultivate and grow. And when it comes to matters of the heart, it can sometimes seem like navigating through a quagmire or minefield.
Enter Marguerite Quantaine, your guide and confidante.
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know? is a collection of sad, funny, and warm stories. Based on events and moments from Marguerite’s own life, these relatable narratives reflect on the changing roles of relationships and offer insightful observations on society and how we live and love.
Marguerite writes about the variety of inter-relationships that come in all shapes and sizes, both good and bad, and the upstream battle when your life and love choices pit you against societal mores. Her writing style is engaging and her stories offer unique perspectives.
But the best that this book has to offer are the surprising and hidden gems that each story reveals. For example: The emotions of feeling, losing, and loving that are universal; the discovery that self-confidence and resiliency are the best defense against bullies; and her recipe for good communication: sincerity, levity, and good intentions.
Heart-tugging and thought-provoking, Marguerite’s stories cause us to examine how we grow through our exchanges with others, and to consider what things we place the most value on. The reader must ultimately answer whether life is calculated by what we let go of, or by what we hang onto with our hearts.
See you next time on February 22nd!
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