I don’t get the chance to read for enjoyment often during the semester. When I’m able to catch a break, a Tufts Daily headline story is all I have time to read before I get sucked back into doing work for classes.
However, those days immediately following a hellish week of exams and deadlines usually brings a quiet lull in my schedule where I can slack off a tiny bit before things pick up again. Okay, I’ll be honest - maybe that quiet lull never comes after an exam because it always feels like everything is moving full steam ahead. Even still, sometimes I can find time to crack open a book I’ve been meaning to get to, or reread a book I’ve enjoyed in the past.
Recently, I reread one of my favorite books, “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd. I first read this book back in middle school because my sister brought it home one day. I loved it for the author’s amazing storytelling and balance of dialogue and thoughtful narration. It’s strange to think how even at that age, when my interest in writing and poetry was starting to pick up (I suppose as a function of my budding adolescence and emotional angst), I was so deeply moved by this complex literature. Sure, maybe I didn’t have the same literary tools that I have now, but that’s the beauty of rereading books you’ve enjoyed in the past - you bring something new to a book every time you pick it up, and you take something additional away when you finish it one more time. I have never felt this way more than with this book.
This book touched a lot on the subject of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. This was significant for me because throughout my sophomore year, I forced myself to analyze my multi-faceted relationship with my mother. We had always been pretty close, but given some circumstances that have arisen as I’ve grown up, I felt myself drifting away from her in the worst of ways. Picking up “The Secret Life of Bees” and refreshing myself with this different perspective on mother-daughter relationships (I know, this sounds so vague but I don’t want to give away ANY spoilers!) reminded me how all of my relationships will always be changing, though that with my mother is my greatest work in progress.
This book catalyzed so many emotional reactions from me, and the writer in me couldn’t help but engage with every single one of them (you know you can relate somehow). Every time I came across a quote that resonated with me, I had to pause my reading and engage with it. Quotes on motherhood and mother-daughter relationships usually inspire my poetry writing because I can connect with the processing that is required to have those thoughts.
It’s strange to think that I read this book for the first time back when I was 11 or 12. I recognized quotes that once affected me for reasons I couldn’t explain, only to realize that now, they had taken on incredible meaning in my life. Though my relationship with my mother is not perfect, I honestly believe that reading books like these help me work through some of the difficult feelings and thoughts I may have. I have always seen my mother as a source of strength for me, though I know sometimes, I lose sight of that idea.
I pulled three quotes from the book that I’ve put on my wall to remind me of this. I am excited to share these because I continue to be in awe of Sue Monk Kidd’s ability to weave the metaphor of bees in a colony to mothers and daughters throughout the novel, while telling a beautiful story of loss, revival, and acceptance. These quotes really make me think and have served as a backbone for much of my poetry this year.
- “The queen is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the works very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness.”
I think about how my mother is the core of my family - cooking, cleaning, and making sure me and my siblings are able to get to school on time and that we have what we need to do our best. I think about earlier days when my mother would leave me and my brother alone when she had to go to work, how those days became situations of learning how to survive on our own for the day, and how when my mother was not home to cook and my brother and I had to be careful in using the stove to cook macaroni and cheese for ourselves if we were hungry.
2. “Honeybees depend not only on physical contact with the colony, but also require its social companionship and support. Isolate a honeybee from her sisters and she will soon die.”
This made me think of how my mother, along with my sister, has always been a rock in my life. I am moved by the idea that women in groups are extremely powerful and that the women in my life are able to build each other up when they get together. We are strongest when we are together.
3. “All those times your father treated you mean, the mothers of the world was the voice inside that said, “No, I will not bow to this.” When you’re unsure of yourself, when you start pulling back into doubt and small living, she’s the one inside saying, “Get up from there and live like the glorious girl you are.” This is the love in your heart saying, “You are my everlasting home. Don’t you ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.”
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. I don’t even have to explain it. It has so much relevance for me growing up, away from home, in a new place where my mother can’t always protect me and talk me through things. I reread this every day before I start my day. It reminds me that even if I cannot talk to my mother every day on the phone, we have an irreplaceable connection that has given me the insight of finding strength and empowerment from connecting with other women.
As a writer, this book has been so pivotal for me; I keep a copy in my dorm and open it up when I need inspiration for a new piece. I guess I’ve learned that I write best when I can connect things to the things that mean the most to me -- my mother.