Skip to main content


April 21, 2011

Meg Waite Clayton: A Letter to Mom

Posted by Anonymous

Author of many short stories and three novels --- including THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS released in March --- Meg Waite Clayton is riding a wave of true success. Below, she shares a touching letter of appreciation for the many things her mother has taught her --- from bottom-wiping and packing boxes to self-respect and never losing hope.

Photo: Meg and family in their earlier years.

Dear Meg Waite Clayton Mother's Day photo.jpgMom,

Motherhood. It’s a pretty incredible thing, isn’t it? Who’d ever have guessed how many of us would gladly wipe messy bottoms and be thankful for the task. I’m in my own twenty-second year of motherhood, and yes, it’s taken me just about this long to appreciate what you did for me, Mom. So thank you. For everything.

For the wiping-my-bottom thing, and for wiping the tears, too. Tears of pain when I busted my lip on a sled on a not-quite-snowy-enough day  (a scar you can still see if you look closely enough); if memory serves, you suggested before I left that I might wait for just a bit more snow, but you never said I told you so. Tears of fear when I handed Chris over to the doctors, to let them crack his head open, and when Nick was born without his little lungs quite working. Tears of sorrow and frustration when I didn’t get into Dartmouth, or make Law Review, or partner. When my first romance ended. And my second. When I got engaged to the third guy, how did you know that taking me shopping for dishes --– the reality of table four ms  bradwells.jpgsettings and silver --– would help me face the fact that he wasn’t the one?

Tears of joy on my wedding day, and when Nick was finally released from neonative intensive care, when THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT was published, and then THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS. When THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS sold even before I wrote the dang thing, and the next book, too. Mostly, it’s true, tears of joy. For all the challenges I’ve faced, I can count more moments of joy in my life than anything else.

Perhaps because you taught me how to face those challenges. I know how to pack boxes and to leave old friends and make new ones because you taught me by doing it again and again and again yourself, without complaint that I ever heard. You always did find new friends in all those new places, and wonderful ones at that, which taught me that maybe I could too.

From watching you, I know how to question, and hope for the best, and insist everything in the world be done to bring it about.  (Although Mac thinks maybe you taught me this insisting stuff just a little too well.) I know how to face life’s challenges with grace from watching you face the challenges life has given you with truly amazing grace.

You taught me to take myself seriously, but not too seriously, to reach for what I wanted, and to expect to get it even if girls didn’t usually do so. To go back and try again if I didn’t get it at first. Or at second. Or at third. I wouldn’t be a writer without that. I’d have given up long before I ever published a short story, much less a novel.

You taught me to respect myself in so many ways, the most vivid of which is a story I tell at readings all the time, about the only advice you gave me for my wedding: that I should have you and Dad present me rather than give me away, because I wasn’t chattel to be given. You aren’t Faith from THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS, but the seeds of her character sprung from that moment when I realized my Republican-leaning, stay-at-home mom was a stealth feminist.

Most of all, Mom, you taught me to love. It’s that love that I take into my friendships, and it never ceases to amaze me how it comes back to me amplified, every time. It’s become the core of what I write, my way of spreading what you taught me: that love tends to be returned with even more love, and reaching out to others is always worthwhile.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!

--- Meg

P.S. I know you didn’t teach me to be a public sap like this, so we’ll blame Dad for that!