On Motherhood in Life & Literature

by Catherine Therese Combe. 

On Motherhood in Life...

There isn’t anything closer to my heart, than Motherhood. Be it treasured memories of my gorgeous Grandmothers, who only seemed to see, the good in naughty old me and who taught me, amongst other things, to sew and to set up an ironing board, for when you run out of seats at the dining table! One of them, Nanny, I lost when I was very young, but her absence has been a constant loving presence in my heart. My other grandmother, Mama, I lost in my forties, when she was 101 – telling me I needed a haircut and stories of sitting out on the back steps of her Cowra childhood home, eating red apples with her father in the sunshine. As her life ebbed away, she was bathed in loving memories and I had the honour of holding her hand, witnessing the blurring of worlds and time… how love carries on, long after we do. 

Which brings me to the unconditional love of my beloved mum, Elaine, through whom, my soul found skin. At almost 87, her vitality, strength and love are still flowing forth, to my sisters and me and our dear old Dad, whom she cares for 24/7 with extraordinary devotion. In Dad's words, ‘My bride is the most wonderful woman in the world.’ To me, Mum is my oldest friend and confidante. When I became a Mother, I was barely a woman myself, and it was Mum by my side, guiding me into the hood. Shadowing my becoming. Showing not telling. My mothering has been shaped by hers, in so many extraordinary ways. In fact, I was only saying to her the other night, that it’s almost impossible for me to tell, where she and my father end - and I begin; such is my sense of love and connection to them. 

As it is too, to my own children, Chris, Ben and Jessie; my three wonders, who have each bestowed upon me the gift and privilege of being their Mother, my greatest joy. Love After Love is an articulation of Jessie’s and my, Mother/Daughter relationship. A bridge of beauty between generations. An ever-evolving conversation. I’m grateful, humbled and awed by the lessons I learn from my children and my Fairy Godmothers; from my beautiful Mother-In-Law, Joan, to precious friends and my twin-souled sister Margy, who have all chosen too, to mother me over the years. Thank you dearly for all of your unconditional generative loving, and happiest of Mother’s Day all.  xo

On Motherhood in Literature...

From my Desk - where I sit, writing the end of a novel I’ve been working on for almost ten years, about Leslie Bird, an irascible matriarch, coming of age and to the boil at 78; I look to my bulging bookshelves, to so many unforgettable literary mothers, from Elizabeth Strout’s prickly pear, Olive Kitteridge, to Christina Stead’s furiously oppressed Henny. To William Styron’s tragic Sophie in Sophie’s Choice, to Anne Enright’s tricky, glorious mothers; from Katherine O’Dell in her recent novel Actress, that explores how fame turns daily life into a performance; to Enright’s own experiences, in her visceral essay collection, Motherhood. To dear old Marmee, the stalwart in Little Women, to Anna Karenina – haunted by her decisions as a wife and mother and the society that judges her, to name just a few, that I love. 

There are just so many incredible books with memorable mothers – but it’s Alice Nelson’s exquisite love song of a novel, The Children’s House, that explores the complexities of family and mothering, in a myriad of deeply thought-provoking ways, that I have never encountered before, that I would most like to recommend to you this Mother’s Day. 

Click here to read a review of The Children's House.   

You can purchase The Children's House here.

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