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  • Bonnie Randall

Someone Else's Mother

When I am not writing, I teach workshops on human adversity and resiliency. It is gratifying work, and I am routinely intrigued by how the material I teach informs my writing, and vice versa. The presence of adversity in a character's life will guide their decisions, compel them to stumble, and assign them with baggage tough to carry...and which likely smells a whole lot like rank laundry.

In my two full-length bodies of work, my main characters, Shaynie & Andrew have faced a wealth of turbulence. There's the direct and current blows that the reader is privy to as their stories unfold, but there are also the more subtle and insidious catastrophes they've endured - like the death of someone only mentioned in passing in one of the novels: their Mother.

Mother-orphans from the time they were prepubescent, Shaynie and Andrew nonetheless have enough internal resiliency to conquer the challenges their writer mercilessly throws at them. But how? Without that single - and some say most impactful - person in their life, how did these siblings manage to avoid the temptation to be swallowed whole by dysfunction?

Well, they did have Mike, a loving (albeit alcoholic) Dad, who both of them idolize; Shaynie becomes a carpenter just like Mike because it allows her to feel close to him. Andrew confides his darkest horrors to Mike's tombstone because, unable to bear burdening his Dad with all that had happened to him while Mike was living, he is still the person Andrew most longed to talk to, and so the conversation, one-sided, happened once Mike was dead.

Shaynie and Andrew also have each other, and many readers have contacted me to say that they really love the bond these siblings share.

Beyond that, though, there are two persons who've surfaced in each of their lives who, as their writer, I'd argue have been the most profoundly influential. Perhaps even saviors.

Cele Boisvert's wisdom is sometimes outrageous, occasionally salacious, and always unconventional; my word - the woman consults Tarot cards in order to give Shaynie guidance! It doesn't get a whole lot freakier than that. (Okay; maybe scrying or activities involving graveyard dirt might be weirder. But still). Regardless, though, of where Cele's advice comes from, the intention behind it is always fraught with care, nurturing, and love. And not all of the mothering she bestows upon Shaynie is occultic or bizarre. Like here:

'...Thank God Cele was already at Divinity when Shaynie burst through the door shivering, and crying. The older woman held her. Rocked her. Stroked her hair and wiped her face, and left her only to scoot briefly to the Ukrainian bakery around the corner. When she came back she had hot soup and fresh bread and insisted Shaynie tuck into it, a mystical parent saying things like, “Eat, Darling. Sleep, Darling.”

Shaynie didn’t think she could swallow a single bite, yet she did. Believed she’d never be able to turn her head off and close her eyes. She was wrong.

When she woke all the curtains were hung. The place had been swept. Leftover bread that had come with the soup was buttered and Cele made her polish this off too, hovering till she ate every bite.

Shaynie never refers to Cele as a mother - or even as a parent - in Divinity & The Python, but I can guarantee that on a day like today, Mother's Day, Cele gets some sort of token from Shaynie. (I can also guarantee that said token would be something bizarre that most of us other mothers might feel the need to give to our pastor or priest and then beg for a blessing or a burning of sage).

Andrew, too, receives maternal guidance - whether he wants it or not. Like in his exchange with Dez McBrien here:

'...Dez scorched him with a look. “Dammit, Corporal! Could you not, just once, consider that maybe I’m not worried about who you might hurt, but who might hurt you?”


She scowled. “And, speaking of hurting you, Kyle King is a sweetheart, but you can’t be around kids. So let him focus his hero worship elsewhere.” She reached up, efficiently checked his bar rag again. “Still,” she said, of his nose. “Now go to bed.”

Gladly. He stalked to the stairs.

That said, there is not a single doubt that my sullen cop loves Dez exactly like a mother. He even says so, here:

'….His eyelids were lead and the stench of smoke was inescapable. He coughed once. Again. Gasped for oxygen.

“Here.” Dez affixed the mask over his nose and it was sweet, really, how she combed his hair off his forehead. A mom. And he loved her like one, yet lacked the strength to lift his hand, squeeze hers.

Still, she knew it. There was a wobble in her voice when she said “Just rest, son.”

He hated her sounding so shaken. “I’m okay.” Damn the dope for garbling it into “’mokey.”

“No, you’re not.” She sighed. “Corporal, what are we going to do with you?”

“Bake me something.”

The relationship Andrew shares with Dez is so complicated and fraught and was a complete delight to craft. She is, without question, his Mom. Both of them know it, neither would have it any other way, and I am so glad that Andrew (and Shaynie) have mothers who choose them. Those relationships are more healing than most people ever give so much as a glancing thought to.

And I should know.

Someone else's Mother once chose me too. she took me under her wing, gave me a bedroom in her house, listened to my battered, broken heart, and held my hands when I would cry.

There is not a shadow of a doubt that I would not have the resiliency I can lay claim to as a middle-aged woman (and a mother myself) had she not made a conscious choice to be part of my life - and while Cele and Dez were not written with her specifically in mind, I can, when I read their scenes in my stories, see glimpses of her here and there.

I am so grateful she was part of my childhood. I literally cannot (and do not want to) imagine how things might have unspooled without her.

Women who - by choice or instinct - elect to parent kids who are not their own are the highest form of mother. Their love is not obligatory. Their care comes with no cost. Their guidance comes from the literal goodness of their hearts.

I am grateful for the love I've felt from someone else's mother. And I am thankful for every other 'someone else's mother' who has loved a kid who wasn't her own. To them I say - from my heart: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY. The world is so much richer because of your presence.

Read my novels HERE: Secrets & Shadows Book I, Divinity & The Python (paperback) or Divinity & The Python ebook. Next, check out Secrets & Shadows Book II Within The Summit's Shadow, paperback or Within The Summit's Shadow, ebook.

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