I spent part of Mother’s Day with Miss Adorable, my hazel-eyed, strawberry-blonde granddaughter. At five-months old, she is a young lady of considerable accomplishments. She has found her thumb and is able to get it firmly into her mouth, and has also mastered the really important skill of sleeping through the night. (A skill, by the way, my husband and I seem to have lost.) She also has a cool, appraising look and a pout of such disdain–think Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Ernest–that even her pediatrician declared it one of the best he had ever seen.
Watching my son and daughter-in-law as they cajoled and fussed over their baby girl made me think about mothering young children, the trials and the rewards. So did a very charming book I’ve been reading called Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (and Other Lies I tell My Children) by Susan Konig.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that Susan is a friend of mine. She also writes for National Review Online and is a columnist for Catholic Digest. Her dad, the debonair Jim Brady–the former editor of Women’s Wear Daily and New York and publisher of Harper’s Bazaar–is a friend as well.
Jim, now in his mid-70s, still produces three columns a week for Parade, Advertising Age, and Crain’s New York Business and writes, at least, a book a year. A man of many parts, in a recent Crain’s column he reminisced about his years in Paris when he was the dishy WWD bureau chief and the 80-year-old Coco Chanel had a crush on him. A former Marine who fought in Korea, Jim’s newest book, The Scariest Place in the World: A Marine Returns to North Korea, received a good review in the Sunday New York Post. Alongside was just as good a review of Susan’s book. It noted that one of the greatest strengths of Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road is that it is not a young mother’s whine-a-thon about how hard it is to raise kid today but rather a witty, rueful acceptance of all that raising kids entails.
For example, describing herself when pregnant, with her daughter who weighed ten and a half pounds–her first son was even bigger–Susan recalls, “I looked as though I had swallowed Cindy Crawford whole.” Her second son, and third child, weighed in at only eight pounds eight ounces. “We almost threw him back,” she writes.
And Susan isn’t done yet. At the reading she gave last week she was nine months pregnant. This week, besides promoting her book, she has a column to write for Catholic Digest and then is having her fourth child on Friday. Not that writing is all that easy even without an appointment for a Caesarian. As she explains: “My children…They were not exactly obstacles to my work because an obstacle is something you can overcome. They were semi-permanent deterrents. No one told them to get in the way of doing anything but taking care of their needs, it was completely instinctive….When the kids napped I was in a race against time… I wouldn’t even turn on the computer because the tapping of the keyboard would wake them up. They had bat hearing when it came to Mommy working even when they slept. ‘Mommy is not thinking about us! Wake up! Wake up! Revolt!’”
Susan’s reading was at a small bookstore in the Upper East Side neighborhood where she once lived. Her family was forced to move to the suburbs, she explains, “by the pitter-patter of little feet–little mice feet.” But life in the suburbs meant contending with the toilet that overflowed on moving day (the sewer backed up into the basement a bit later), a neighbor’s car parked in an unexpected place (repair bill over a thousand dollars), and the neighborhood skunk who liked to watch Susan and her husband watching television. But hey, they did avoid moving to their bargain Victorian dream house when they discovered just before closing that it was a block away from a hazardous waste site.
At the reading, filled with family and friends, Susan’s husband passed around a USA Today rave review of the book by Deirdre Donahue that compared Susan to Erma Bombeck, “that rare writer who could describe motherhood without sounding saccharine or homicidal.” A delighted, proud Jim Brady, who lunches at the Four Seasons and Michael’s but is known in the book as “Pop Pop,” kept re-reading the review. He is wise in the ways of publishing and was very proud. “What a review. Money couldn’t buy a review like that! She has really got it,” he said. Yes, good people can write good books. And so what if Mother’s Day is over? Give it to the mother you want to make smile. I know I am giving a copy to my daughter-in-law.
–Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.