My mother often clasps her hands to her chest and exclaims in a tone of breathless awe that fairy tales "really do come true!" And who can fault her for this? She grew up shooting squirrels and frying them in ketchup for dinner; sleeping in attics, woodsheds, and empty porches; and crawling out of trailer windows to escape a thumbless, axe-wielding maniac intent on her death.
In keeping with the fairy tale theme, the rotating cast of my mother's childhood also included a beloved pet deer, a friendly porcupine, orphaned baby owls and a basement skunk fed on eggs. Singing the show tunes they wrote themselves, my mother and her siblings managed to skip through the monumental horrors of their childhoods to lives of unqualified success. Today, they are mathematical geniuses, poker champions, artists, and doting parents.
My mother (better known as theMeg Tilly) is now not only an Oscar-nominated actress, but also an ex-ballerina, a self-taught stock market expert, and a Tae-Kwon-Do sparring champion. She is also the author of several books. She wrote about her Dickensian upbringing in a critically acclaimed first novel published before she was 35 -- she scrawled it on the backs of paper bags in between breast-feeding her third baby and shoveling snow in our rural B.C. log cabin.
My mother was determined to give us the childhood she never had; accordingly, my childhood was a fairy tale of a different kind. I grew up eating chocolate cake for breakfast and crustless, heart-shaped sandwiches for lunch, roller-skating in the hallway outside my bedroom, and wearing 24 ponytails and a tutu to elementary school if that's what I wanted. We were raised without television, watching one G-rated video a week, and were punished by being made to jump on the bed downstairs. Once a year, she would take us on a surprise trip to Disneyland.
Now she wants me to blog with her on mother/daughter relationships and I confess it's not my favorite of her many zany ideas. I left home almost 10 years ago, shortly after turning 18, and since then have not been back for more than two weeks at a stretch. These days, my mother and I speak infrequently -- certainly less than once a week. She doesn't know where I am as I write this post, nor does she have the phone number here -- I was raised to value my privacy.
Though my mother is, by all accounts, an exceptional person, our relationship over the past years has not been without its difficulties, and I am cautious about exploring its more challenging aspects in a public forum. Also, it's hard not to look inadequate beside her: by my age she had a Golden Globe, a baby (me) and a husband; I have only a Masters degree and a dog that now lives with my brother.
Still, my mother set out to be the best mother she possibly could be and she succeeded. Though the childhood she gave me may not have been the childhood I would, in retrospect, have given myself, it's amazing that (between her career and her own traumatic past) she managed to give us even half of what she did.
If co-writing a Mother/Daughter-themed blog for Huffington Post Canada will help make my mother's fairy-tale complete, I suppose it's the very least I can do.