In My Mother's Closet
- An Invitation to Remember
by Eugenia Zukerman
Sorin Books, Notre Dame, Indiana
This sweet little book is
a compilation of interviews that the author conducted with 46 other
women concerning their reminiscences of their mothers' closets. Many
of the subjects are well known: Mary Louise Parker, Carrie Fisher, Dolores
Hart, Lesley Stahl, Judy Collins, Renee Fleming and Claire Bloom are
just a few of the famous who are included. Many others who are less
well known to the public are nonetheless women of considerable accomplishment.
All these women seem to have
had relationships to their mothers that are overwhelmingly positive,
even those who admit to having rebelled against the maternal influence
at some point in their growing-up years. In fact, this might be a good
book to give to a daughter or daughter-in-law who is having difficulty
with her own daughter, inasmuch as it will support the hope that eventually
Mom returns to being the hero she was while her children were very young.
By nature episodic (three
or four pages given to each interview), In My Mother's Closet is
a good book to pick up and put down for brief, engaging reads. Reading
it all at once tended to overload this reader, and after 150 pages or
so, I felt as if I were glazing over and losing the individuals on the
There is, in fact, quite
a lot of repetition. That may be the nature of the book's subject or
of the subjects themselves, many of whom share similar family backgrounds
and educations. Either the author was fixated on an idea, or a great
many of her subjects had studied just enough psychology to interpret
maternal closet as womb, because the simile comes up over and over again.
On a happier note, so do
the tales of tactile, sensual memories of the items in those closets:
silks, velvets, scarves, hats, gloves, lingerie, jewelry cases, and
more than any other memory, the scents of their mother's perfumes or
powders. For those of us who were children during the '30's and 40's,
the mere mention of hats with half veils or stockings with seams down
the back or cologne like Tweed or Chanel #5 releases a
torrent of emotional recall. The physical presence of our mothers can
be evoked by many, many things: a song, or a voice that sounds familiar,
or perhaps a treasured piece of jewelry; and like Ms. Zukerman, we are
comforted even as we may be saddened by the reminder.
The similarities from interview
to interview remind us that to be a mother is to have incredible power
over our children, no matter their or our ages.
With Mother's Day coming
up, you might consider dipping into this book. Eugenia Zukerman is a
world famous flutist who is also a well-known TV personality and writer.