fierce attachments

a mother-daughter blog about the fierce attachments in our lives… title inspired by Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir

Category: Mother-Daughter Relationships

my mother, my country

by nikki meredith

I had my teeth cleaned last week and while my mouth was rendered unusable by me, the dental hygienist started talking about her husband. He works for a Bay Area police department and had just returned from some kind of law enforcement conference in Florida. At one point her conversation veered to the political and I held my breath or as much as I could hold my breath with someone’s hands in my mouth.  I braced myself for a right wing rant.  But that’s not what happened.  She said when her husband returned home from his trip, he walked in the door and flopped down the living room couch.  He looked at her and said,  “I don’t recognize this country any more.”



While he was in Florida he saw campaign signs – apparently many of them – that freely, openly and unapologetically, used the n word in their anger-relled declarations.

“Can you imagine,” she said to me, “what it must be like for African- Americans to drive around and see those signs?” Read the rest of this entry »


the mother of my grandaughter’s mother: a grandmother’s quest to find the right name

by nikki meredith

old russian grandmotherWhen my older sister announced her pregnancy, my mother announced, shortly thereafter, that she didn’t want to be called grandma, granny, gran or any variation of grandmother.  I assumed it was because grandmother meant old and my mother, who had always shrouded her age in secrecy, didn’t want any clues to her age. She’d been grappling with the age thing since she became a mother herself at the age of 16.  Her solution as a teenager was to tell people, at least people who didn’t know better, that the baby was her sister not her daughter.   (The implications of this lie are vast and, possibly, the subject of a future blog or two, or two thousand. Fierce attachments indeed!)

After my sister learned to talk, the jig was up. My mother was forced to come out of the mother closet. She may have been willing to lie to strangers but she was not, thank God, willing to lie to her daughter.

When, at the age of 47, she became a grandmother, she didn’t try to claim that her grandson was her little brother but she still saw no reason to advertise her demographic. At least I assumed that was her aversion to being called grandmother. I never actually asked her about it. (There were some topics one did not raise with my mother. My attachment to her also had its share of fierceness.) Read the rest of this entry »

the path not taken: a mother and her aid worker daughter

by nikki meredith

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 

And sorry I could not travel both…

 Robert Frost

“Mom, please tell me….if it’s going to be too hard on you, I won’t go.”

Caitlin and I were sitting outside at Emporio Rulli, our neighborhood Italian Bakery drinking tea on a shimmering fall day. She was scheduled to leave soon for Darfur where she’d be working as an epidemiologist with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The news from the region was dreadful.  In a pitched battled against settled farmers, an armed militia group known as the Janjaweed were on a rampage, burning down villages, killing men, raping women. Children were starving.  The year she was scheduled to go, the fighting had reached a peak and the conflict was then considered one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world.  I got a knot in my gut every time I thought of her embarking on that particular journey but there was more to the story. Read the rest of this entry »

mother-daughter relationships: then and now

by nikki meredith

Image via Couture Allure

Easter Sunday. I’m 10 years old.  While other families are attending Easter sunrise services at the Hollywood Bowl, my family is in my father’s Buick heading to Rand’s Roundup in Hollywood – a restaurant billed as an urban chuck wagon.    I’m clutching my Easter basket – my brother is 14 and too old for Easter baskets — but we are each holding a cellophane bag of foil-covered Sees chocolate eggs that my mother’s Jewish friend Rose gives us every Easter to celebrate our secular L.A. urban holiday.

My mother and I are wearing Easter bonnets —  plain straw hats to which she has attached fresh gardenias — and matching dresses. I love the dresses — delicate Swiss cotton in pale yellow with tiny pearl buttons down the front. I like being twins with my mother. I like my mother. That will change but I don’t know it yet. Read the rest of this entry »

fierce attachments: difficult mothers and the daughters who love them

by nikki meredith

A few years ago I was at an all women dinner party and we started talking about our mothers. Because it’s Marin County — an area saturated with shrinks of all stripes —  there was a lot of shrinkish  vocabulary circulating the room.  At one point when I talked about my mother and my complicated relationship with her, one of the women said,  “She must have been a narcissist.” No, I said, she was not a narcissist and I tried to back up my claim with examples of her non-narcissistic behavior. Another woman opined that my mother must have had boundary issues. Yet another, diagnosed her as borderline. I changed the subject. These terms, as applied to someone I cared about, were not only off the mark, they were offensive.  Where, I thought, is a novelist when you need one?

And this brings me to Vivian Gornick and her book, Fierce Attachments, a memoir structured around her walks with her aged mother in New York City and after which we named this web site. Gornick is not a novelist and it is not a work of fiction – I’ll get to that issue in a minute — but if you’ve read it, try to imagine someone affixing Gornick’s mother – an exasperating woman who could be petty and narrow-minded but who was also smart, courageous, and funny – with a label from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  Imagine how much of the power and the intensity would be lost. Read the rest of this entry »

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