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A Letter To My Mother, With No Swearing (Just As She Prefers It)

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I suppose this post could be for mothers of creative, strange children everywhere, but mostly, it’s for my mom. My original plan was to write this note for her on a piece of stationery, but then I looked around my office. Somehow it didn’t seem very meaningful to give her something jotted in Sharpie on a Scorpio Races postcard or the corner of a Shiver bookmark or on the back of a Raven Boys bookplate or in the blank part of an index card that already has fourteen plot points scribbled on it.

Then I thought, no, my blog is my finest stationery. A thank you note on Mother’s Day is nice. A thank you note on Mother’s Day that is searchable in Google results is even better.

So here it is.

Hi, Mom,

I decided to write you a note for Mother’s Day. I’m sure this seems out of character, as I normally eschew all holidays that don’t involve cake or trees. But this year I looked at the jug of fancy conditioner I had bought you for your Mother’s Day present, and I thought: one day, this conditioner will be all gone. And then you will not remember my affection for you. This fancy conditioner won’t last for a year. It’ll last for a month. Then you’ll have eleven months of wondering if your middle daughter truly appreciates you.

Conditioner is transient. And once it has passed from this world, it’s just . . . gone.

So I tried to think of something more permanent. I considered artwork and furniture and knicks and knacks. However, I know that our idea of interior design differs. You have nice prints and wreathes on the walls. I have rusty metal scissors and twisted license plates hanging on mine.

And what is more permanent than the written word? Nothing.*

*with the possible exception of Gangnam Style

Here we go.

I know I haven’t been the easiest daughter to have. I remember well that I was a small, cranky, sullen, black-hearted, violent child. I pinched my siblings and punched my classmates. I didn’t really eat food. Mostly I ate the same four or five items for weeks on end and then, just as you had stocked the house with these a backlog of these items, I would remove them vocally from my diet. I’m still sorry about that letter the school sent home in third grade. Hey, at least I knew you weren’t starving me, right?

I was not very huggable. I liked things my way. I was a bad child and a worse teen. I had a very particular plan for my life and when I became interested in something, I would obsessively pursue it to the absence of all other things. I cut off all my hair because I knew you didn’t want me to. I swore because you frowned when I did. I street raced so often and got so many speeding tickets that I came within a hair of losing my license. And at no point was I sorry. Also I wore black all the time.

I was just terrible.

But despite my terribleness, I wanted to tell you that I think you did an amazing job. Especially now that I have my own children**. I guess I took it for granted how you always had an art project or a book for me to read or a piano lesson all ready. Until I had Thing 1 and Thing 2, I didn’t realize how much time and consideration it took to prepare something like that every single afternoon. You took all of us to the library nearly every week and let us browse in the stacks for hours. As a kid, I didn’t even think about how you might have other ways you wanted to spend your Saturday. And even though you were allergic to dogs and cats, we had about a billion of them growing up. I remember thinking you were being unfair by drawing the line at rodents. No doubt you said this with the traditional tissue you kept in your pocket — for when the dander of six or seven dogs or cats finally got to you. How crushed we were! HOW ABOUT A LIZARD, MOM? A KOMODO DRAGON?

**At first, I typed “my own kids” there and then I thought . . . no, now that I have goats, that is too unspecific.

I grew up surrounded by all sorts of different art stuffs and books and scratch paper and musical instruments and I just thought that’s how everybody lived.

Man, it takes a billionty hours a week for me to pull off even a quarter of what you did with me and four other siblings. I still don’t really know how you did it. But I didn’t want you to think I didn’t notice. Maybe I didn’t at the time, but I do now. Better late than never, right?

Here’s the most important thing: you never told me I couldn’t be a writer or an artist or a composer. You always made sure I had the tools to learn how to be the best writer and artist and musician I could be. We had our bumps along the way, but really, you were there at every step making sure that I could pursue that dream. Whether it was taking me to the library or setting me up with clay or hurriedly packing my stuff into a car so I could switch to a college with a Music Composition degree two weeks before the semester began . . . and then helping me switch colleges again when I left town after my morning classes six weeks later.

At the time, I thought, of course.

Now . . . well, I would have killed me. Or at the very least sent me to a distant boarding school with padded walls.

Thanks for making me who I am, Mom.


P.S. I will bring your conditioner out next time I’m at the house. It’s just great stuff.

  • Dominique

    Awesome job, Maggie.

    I suddenly have the urge to write a heartfelt letter to my mother, my stepmother, and my grandma (who helped raise me; I was an only kid in the middle of one messed up divorced parents situation).

    From one mother to another (although, my kids are being A-holes and obviously don’t get that they’re supposed to be model citizens today for my sake)… Happy Mother’s Day.

  • That was a beautiful letter. You have such a knack for keeping it humorous even though it is very serious. Loved it.

  • Mathilda

    I cannot keep myself from smiling every time I read one of your blog posts, thanks for being so awesome!

  • Deb O.

    Very funny and touching, with many thoughts I, too, could echo.

    I am one of six kids, in a family where my mom rarely smiled but succeeded in bringing us all to adulthood (although a few of us gave her a run for her money). I understand totally the lack of gaiety in my mom’s many stern moods now, and I have only had two kids* to raise.

    *I can freely use this term, since goats aren’t allowed in the area of the town where we live.

    My kids are now 21 and 17. So far, they have brought me many more smiles than frowns, and I always feel blessed that God gave these two to me to totally fill my life with wonder, stress (lol) and love.

    My mom died last August. This is my first Mother’s Day without her. Her passing was truly painful for me to bear, since she died of congestive heart failure, after a week in the hospital and six days in a nursing home. On the up side of things, up until that time she had spent her life as SHE wanted to, in her own home. She was surrounded by a community of church friends, and her kids were near enough that we could visit and call very often. Her yard work, and, later, house work, was taken care of by us kids. She never wanted to be a burden, particularly during the 15 years she survived my father. My mom was always a feisty, independent woman. She did an awesome job raising us with the tools and gifts she had been given, and is missed daily by her children and grandchildren.

    Thanks for posting and sharing your letter to you mom. It spurred me on to remember my mom in even more vivid colors than I had originally started the day with.

    Happy Mom’s Day, Maggie!!! <3

  • Anonymous

    Your mom must be a saint. It’s nice to come out the other side of being a stupid teenager and see how great your mom is. She must be so proud of you. Happy Mothers Day.

  • Lujan

    Oh, Maggie. That’s truly yours – I mean for the type of writing and the Stiefvarian-sarcasm everywhere! I’m a teenager, and now by reading your letter I’ve kind of took notice about what a pain in the ass I have become to my parents haha.
    Love your letter!
    I apologize for the english -lame, poor… BLAH!
    Saludos desde Argentina 🙂

    PS: When I get my degree, I will throw in your garden the copy of my book for you to read it.

  • Sherie

    Hey. I would like to thank your mom too! She did a great job despite what you describe as very difficult odds. And now we get to enjoy the fruits of her (and your) labor! So Thank You to Maggie’s mom! And keep sending her chocolate chip cookies!

  • I really enjoyed reading your letter Maggie! It’s true that mothers are like superheroes, at least to me. They manage to have the time for themselves AND for their kids — and your mom sounds amazing. Happy mother’s day to her and to you as well!

  • As wonderful as this is (and it is wonderful, make no mistake about it) I would dearly love to read you’re mother’s response. : )

    — Tom

  • Could be a letter to me or my mother. Either one. 🙂 Happy Mamma’s Day Maggie!

  • Maryann

    Beautifully written with a lot of heart and soul. Thank you for sharing it.

  • J T

    Hello Ms. Stiefvater,
    I just finished Scorpio Races and I loved it so much! I grew up loving any book about horses and loving Gaelic mythology and this novel brought all of that together. Thisby reminds me of the Aran Islands. At any rate, I love your characters and the way you use language. I have rarely read a book where I have such strong attachments for both lead characters as I had for both Sean and Puck. And I even loved your supporting characters: Finn, Mr. Holly, Peg, Dory Maud. They all added so much to the tale. And Corr. I love Corr. The ending of this story broke me heart and made me smile at the same time. I thought, at the end, that it wouldn’t have surprised me if Sean had followed Corr into the sea. But it seems he made some human connections to keep him land bound. And Corr loving him enough to give up his natural element. So beautiful. I think I am glad there won’t be a direct sequel however I would love for your to write more tales of magical monster horses and their people. Thank you for a great story.

  • Fantastic! Just finished listening to the audio book for the first time and I don’t want to wait…but I will…but I don’t want to ;).

    Thanks for sharing with us!

    • And I also realized this posted on the wrong blog post…oops!!

  • Jt

  • Palesa

    Wow I must say. Waking up today I was a person who was gonna send my mother an sms. Growing up I never had a relationship with my mother. 10 years ago my parents separated and I went to stay with my mother but it was one of the difficult stay because my mother’s mother didn’t like me so much. I’m a girl that looks just like her dad so when she looked at me she saw my dad and half of my life I’ve had to take blame for what my dad has done. Having to take blame and be punished for what you didn’t do is something I wouldn’t want anyone to do through. I developed drinking problems,started going out late. I’m now undergoing therapy and I’m happy to say my mother is now my best friend and love her to death,she is all I live for. Live without her would be hell I must say. I would like to thank every person that loves,respect and honors their moms without them we would be nothing.

  • anas

    good very good

Maggie Stiefvater
Hi, I'm Maggie Stiefvater

Professional novelist by day and artist by night. I live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, and neurotic dogs. I’m the author of the Books of Faerie (LAMENT and BALLAD); the bestselling SHIVER trilogy (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER), and THE SCORPIO RACES.

How I Write

Maggie Stiefvater Novels

Copyright 2012