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If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother (English Edition) par [Sweeney, Julia]
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Longueur : 257 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Page Flip: Activé Langue : Anglais

Description du produit


If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother


I want to be alone. I really need to be alone.

I took so long to assemble my lovely family. I did it all a bit backward: first a delightful daughter, then a beloved husband. I went after creating family, like a golden retriever running after a ball—how much does the dog think about what he’s doing? He doesn’t think. He does. He is a doer. That’s me, too. I did it, I do it. I am doing it.

Every morning I get up and hustle. I’m sure this is true for most mothers. It’s true for me, too. This is what I wanted, after all. This was my dream. I’m always on task. I never go up the stairs of our house without looking around for what needs to be taken up. I never buy just one meal’s worth of food at the grocery store. I drive the carpools, I volunteer at the school cafeteria. I wait patiently outside the dance classes. I iron. I clean up the cat vomit. Make dinner. Walk the dog. I work (write) at home and then really work, at home. I quell the rising ire in my roommates. I try to instill harmony, efficiency, and a calm, enabling environment for my fellow family members. I often set the table two hours before dinner. I live by lists. I pick up things in our house and put them where they go. Chiefly, I’m the protector against the chaos that threatens us. I am a good soldier.

I love my job.

Secretly I hate my job.

I love my family.

If only they would disappear.

Why do I sometimes find myself entertaining the enticing idea of entering a witness protection program? Why does the desire arise, when I walk my dog to Lake Michigan, to drop the dog leash and swim straight out toward the Upper Peninsula, then on to Montreal, and then over to the Atlantic and into a frothy sea that would suck me into—somehow—incongruously—some calm tranquility?

I just want this family to go away and leave me be.

And now they are leaving me be.

A delightful convergence of circumstances has occurred. My twelve-year-old daughter, Mulan, is going to sleepaway camp, for a month. And my husband, Michael, is going away to work out of town, to Tucson, to Boston, then to Europe, for a month. Well, Michael will be home for three days at the end of the second week, but mostly I will be here by myself. People! Can you stand it? I’m so excited. In fact, I’m giddy.

Four weeks by myself. No nudging, no breakfasts, no mad mommy and disgruntled wife. Just me in my house.

I act different when it’s just me in my house. I’ve never gotten four weeks—but I have had a day or two, here and there, to bask in the solitude of my home. A muscle relaxes; the mother/wife/hostess mask slides off. I don’t rush around and pick up every little thing. I let the dishes pile up, and the newspapers don’t make it to their designated place. I don’t make the bed.

Oh. Oh . . . yes. The bed.

I’ll get into bed early, around 8:30 P.M. Sometimes even earlier—when it’s still light outside. I’ll watch TV and let the cat rub up against my feet while I eat ice cream. I’ll move all over the bed. It’s just there for me. I’ll wander around the house and let myself get consumed by a random project. I’ll sit on the sofa and listen to the sounds of the street outside. I’ll surf the Web in my office for hours. There’s going to be no need to look, or even pretend to look, productive.

I have big plans for these four weeks. I want to stay inside. I don’t want to go anywhere. Truthfully, this desire has been gathering momentum for a while now. I expected myself to be a careerist, out in the world, living in an urban environment with urbane friends and lots of cocktail parties. But I turned into a woman who doesn’t like to leave her house. If I’d known when I was twenty that I was going to turn into the person I am at age fifty-two, I would have cringed. And laughed. No way!

And yet.

That twenty-year-old self knew so little about the delicious taste of solitude.

So come with me; let’s spend this month together. If I’m going to be alone, you’re coming too, goddamnit. You’ll be my compatriot, my conspirator, my secret bearer. I’ll tell you my story, and then you’ll help me understand. How did I get here?

I have found myself in another part of the world.

I have found myself behind the wheel of a large automobile.

Thank you, David Byrne and the Talking Heads, for giving me—a head who is often talking—the right lyrics. And speaking of large automobiles, mine is a minivan, a Honda Odyssey. An Odyssey! I laughed when I saw it for the first time in Hollywood, realizing I would be driving to the Midwest, and away from my own Trojan war, after having won a certain kind of peace. Some women recoil at the idea of minivans, but not me, not us, not we in the land of minivans.

However, we’ll only admire this car from the vantage of the kitchen window, because I’m hoping not to drive for an entire month. And yet, metaphorically speaking, we’ll travel near and far. We’ll occasionally gaze upon the car, and its existence will figure into a couple of stories. Let it serve us as an icon of our time together. We’re going on a journey home, while being at home already.


My favorite kind.|If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother


If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

Because the pillow that I dream on [is] a threshold of a world I can’t ignore.

—Silver Jews, “My Pillow Is the Threshold”

First things first: Let me bring you in the house, which, you may notice, is quite old by American standards. It’s located in Wilmette, Illinois. It has a history, this house. It used to be the Village Hall and was originally built in 1878. This house was in existence when the Battle of Little Bighorn was going on, a mere thousand miles to the west. Why this fact is meaningful to me, I’m not exactly sure. But this house—the door frames, the old plaster on the walls of the front rooms, the staircase banister—it links me in time to history, however humbly.

My house sits near the wee town center, which has a train station; in just twenty-eight minutes you can be in downtown Chicago. Michael and I bought this house nearly four years ago, after we married. Mulan and I moved from Los Angeles, moving in with Michael, who was already living a mile from here. We pasted ourselves together and formed a family. When I saw this house for the first time, I had that Brigham Young—like sensation: this is the place. I was in love at first sight, but I pretended to consider other houses, like dating around before you get married to the person you know you’ll marry. This house and I were meant for each other. We both knew it. Plus, like Brigham Young, I was really tired and wanted to stop.

The house has been remodeled many times over the years, but the front part of the house is the oldest part. There’s a guest room just to the right of the front door. In the guest room we have an antique double bed and we call it the “grandma room.” This is because it’s often used by Michael’s mother, Norma, or my mother, Jeri, when they visit.

On the bed is a decorative pillow. My mother gave this pillow to me about seventeen years ago—when I was single, living in Los Angeles, and not yet a mother. She had come to visit, and as she bent over her suitcase to unpack, she exclaimed, “I brought you the most hysterical thing!” I was a little frightened. Past experience taught me that the object would not, in fact, be hysterical.

Then I watched as she took a small, navy blue pillow out of her suitcase. She was already laughing. The pillow had a phrase embroidered on top: IF IT’S NOT ONE THING, IT’S YOUR MOTHER.

I immediately hated the pillow for two reasons. One was that it was a play on an old catchphrase, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” Gilda Radner’s character on Saturday Night Live Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say that phrase, after she said, “It’s always something.” The association with Saturday Night Live was slightly irritating because I’d just left that very show, and although my departure was on friendly terms I was feeling slightly wounded. However, many people—I think perhaps my mother is included in this group—assumed that as a former cast member I must love anything even slightly associated with SNL, and I feared that this was part of her assumption when buying that pillow.

The second thing I hated was the rhyming pun (as a rule I do not like those), in which the key word was mother, meaning that it was, of course, all about my mother. I thought, the pillow may as well have been embroidered with MY MOTHER IS A FIRST-CLASS NARCISSIST AND ALL I GOT OUT OF IT WAS THIS STUPID PILLOW.

Come to think of it, there was a third reason I hated the pillow, the true objection at the root of it all. It was that the pillow indicated to whoever gazed upon it that my mother and I conversed in a casual yet intimate repartee of mutual ribbing, a jovial “You drive me crazy but I still love you” kind of thing. I felt that my mother and I did not have that kind of relationship.

My mother held the pillow out toward me and I smiled, forcefully.

“Isn’t it hysterical?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said flatly. “Hysterical.”

As soon as my mother left town I put the pillow into a closet. It only emerged when she came for a visit; I’d prop it up on the guest room bed ahead of her arrival. A few years and several visits went by. One spring, my mother came to visit. She looked affectionately at the pillow. “That pillow is really just so funny,” she said. Then she glanced at me, encouraging me to agree.

“Eh . . . ,” I said.

“Oh,” my mother replied, stung by my lack of enthusiasm. “Well, if you don’t like it, get rid of it.” She picked up the pillow and pressed it against her breast. Her head looked like a flower emerging from the square shape, her neck and face tilted slightly to one side. A tablespoon of liquid guilt dripped into my lower abdomen.

“No, I sort of like it,” I meekly offered.

“Oh good!” My mother sighed, relieved.

Years went by. I became a mother myself. The guest room in L.A. became my daughter’s room, and the closet where the pillow was kept became my daughter’s closet. One day, when Mulan was about four years old, I was cleaning out her closet and I came upon the pillow.

Suddenly, without warning, a flood of emotion came over me. I realized with a start that this pillow really was hysterical. I laughed out loud and thought, This pillow needs to be on my daughter’s bed. Anyone who walks in is going to laugh.

With a thud, I understood that I’d been much, much too hard on my mother. She wasn’t a narcissist! We really did have a casual intimacy that included mutual ribbing. Just like I did, and would continue to have, with my own daughter as she grew older. Of course!

So the pillow’s new home was on Mulan’s bed. And I was right: anyone who came over and toured around the house laughed when they saw it. “Where did you get that?” they would ask. “My mother!” I would say. We would both giggle. See, the humor would escalate.

My daughter grew and years passed. When Mulan was six she came to me with the pillow.

“I don’t want this on my bed anymore,” she said.

“Why?” I asked, adding, “It’s hysterical.”

“No,” Mulan said. “It’s not. I don’t even get it.”

I said, “Well, it’s a play on the phrase ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another.’ Like if many bad things are happening to you, or like if one bad thing goes away in your life and then another one pops up.”

“That’s terrible,” Mulan said.

“Yes,” I said. “So this pillow takes that phrase, and substitutes the word mother for another. Like your ‘mother’ is another bad thing that happens to you.”

It dawned on me that I was clearly not a bad thing happening to her. At least not yet; I mean, she was only six. In a way, her not getting the joke was a compliment.

Mulan said, “I just don’t like it. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but it’s not funny to me. I don’t want this pillow in my room.” Then she added this, just to twist the knife a little: “You wouldn’t want me to have something I really didn’t like in my room, would you?”

I say “twist the knife” because one thing I want my daughter to be is able to defy and be independent of me, her mother; unlike me, who cowers and does whatever my mother says or wants most of the time. I suppose I have succeeded in cultivating this quality in Mulan, as she has it in spades, and she emphasizes her independence and different opinions constantly. I have vowed to gulp and bear it.

At this point, Mulan sighed wearily at me, indicating that in fact, I was not a totally good thing in her life. Which made me think, “Well, if that was true, why wasn’t that pillow funny?”

Then, I realized: clearly the funniness of this pillow does not become apparent until one actually becomes a mother, and the pillow, resting on one’s offspring’s chair or bed, demonstrates its comic value to all.

My mission was suddenly clear and straightforward: I had to keep this pillow until Mulan did, in fact, think it was funny. That would only occur if Mulan became a mother herself. The pillow went back in the closet.

Through several dramatic reductions of clutter and even a marriage and a move across country, I’ve held on to that pillow. I think of the pillow now like an insect, the cicada. Here, in the Midwest, there is a species of cicada whose larvae live underground. Depending on the species, they bide their time for thirteen to seventeen years. Then they metamorphose as flying adults into the light of day. I feel the pillow is like the cicada—just biding its time, waiting to be funny again.

But then, a little over a year ago, here in Illinois, I came across the pillow in a basement closet and moved it to the guest room bed. The grandmothers come and go, and the guest room is often empty. But the pillow has found a home in this room.

At this very moment our dog, Arden, is draped over the pillow on the bed. He’s an Australian cattle hound, about fifty pounds. His paws cradle the pillow and under his bloodshot eyes you can just read the word mother. It’s hard not to sigh and linger in the doorway when he looks at me like that.

But, let’s go down the hallway and sit together at the family room dining table. I will make us some tea. As you can see, the table has a knitting project on it. Let me explain: Mulan became determined to learn how to knit a couple of years ago. She badgered. Let’s take a class. It’ll be so much fun. I resisted. My resolve began to unravel. When Mulan became determined to knit, it seemed predetermined somehow. Of course I would have a daughter who wanted to knit. Maybe on some subconscious level she understands that the story of our trajectory toward each other has knitting in Act 1.

Revue de presse

"What a gift! If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother is an intimate and hilarious book that will leave you resenting your mother less, hugging your children tighter, and glowing with gratitude that Julia Sweeney has put it all into words." (Maria Semple author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette)

“Reading If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother gave me the delightful sensation of being Julia Sweeneys best friend. I curled up in bed with this book and we shared secrets, swapped parenting fiascos and boyfriend dramas, complained about our mothers, laughed a lot, cried a little, and just generally had an awesome time. Write another book soon, Ms. Sweeney! Legions of your friends are waiting!” (Ayelet Waldman author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother)

"A former SNL cast member leaves fame behind, moving to the Midwest and adopting a Chinese girl, in this endearing series of true tales from parenthood's front lines." (O, The Oprah Magazine)

"A deep, candid, insightful, and emotional look at love, family, independence, and commitment....Reading it is like catching up through a long, soul-baring night with your funniest old friend." (More)

"A thoughtful set of essays on motherhood embroidered with humor . . . As you'd expect, there's humor here, but it's also a deeper read about relationships and the unpredictability of life." (Chicago Tribune)

"Frank, funny." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"Julia Sweeney can you make you laugh about anything. . . . Wry and honest." (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"Funny, funny stuff . . . clever and quirky . . . she exhibits that rare ability as a writer to make the ordinary seem interesting." (San Antonio Express-News)

"Outlandishly funny . . . For every mother who could use a laugh—in other words, every mother—If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother offers a touch of wisdom and plenty of wit." (Tampa Bay Times)

"Intimate and humorous . . . Sweeney's devilish sense of humor successfully makes the transition to page, linking the scenes of her life as daughter, sister, wife, and mother into a delightful whole." (Publishers Weekly)

“Laugh-out-loud moments blended with honesty and despondency.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"Sweeney takes life’s quotidian rituals to hilarious heights." (Booklist)

"[Sweeney's] sharp humor shines through . . . singles looking to adopt will find inspiration along with the giggles." (Library Journal)

"This is the sort of book that made me want to be the person who wrote it. Pithy, painful and very, very funny." (Emma Thompson)

"I am hereby breaking my vow to not write any more blurbs's Julia Sweeney! In my opinion, any new creative offering from Julia Sweeney, no matter what the medium, is a cause for celebration because she is such a spectacular combination of insightful, hilarious and honest. So, yay! A new book from Julia Sweeney! Drinks are on me!" (Merrill Markoe author of Cool, Calm, and Contentious)

"What a delicious treat! Julia Sweeney is one of the truest, warmest, wittiest voices in the world today, and we're so lucky that she spent her precious alone-time (while her husband and daughter were away) writing a book that invites everyone into her heart and home." (Cindy Chupack, a writer/executive producer of HBO's Sex and the City and author of The Between Boyfriends Book)

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 5318 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 257 pages
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster (2 avril 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B008J2BZEG
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Lecteur d’écran : Pris en charge
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards) 4.2 étoiles sur 5 81 commentaires
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Mulan -- Tell Your Mother To Let You Onto Her Audiobooks More Often! 9 mai 2013
Par Dirk Turgid - Publié sur
Format: CD Achat vérifié
While I've been a great admirer of Julia Sweeney's for years -- I buy her 'Letting Go of God' in bulk to give away -- this audiobook affected me differently. I am in my Latter-Day fifties, and my wife and I are childless, so we haven't experienced parenthood with (as Julia says) it's various joys and sorrows. I never doubted, even as a child, that I would never have children, and I am awed by Julia's strength and sense of self-worth that allowed her to take on this daunting challenge.

I have a tendency towards certain forms of naivete. I carried mail for ten years after I got out of the army, and the neighborhood that I was responsible for was quite a patchwork quilt of ethnicities and origins. There was Vietnamese, Egyptian, Israeli, Georgian (Russian Georgian, that is, although I regard Atlanta Braves fans not so much as foreigners but aliens), Croats, Sikh, Hindu, and Chinese, all within a thirteen block area. I felt proud that my country was home to them all, and I really believe that our strength is from diversity. And our love of diverse cuisines, too.

When Mulan Sweeney-Blum read her school report on the origins of her parents and herself, I again felt proud. Lovely job, young woman, and a fine job in your reading as well as your writing.

For the rest of the audiobook, it has the raw honesty, self-doubt, poignancy, sweetness, self-deprecation, self-honesty, and yes, naivete that is the essence of Sweeney. It's what make her memorable and noteworthy, and should make the rest of us feel very fortunate that we have her to enjoy and admire. I felt that 'Letting Go of God' was such an accomplishment that could have been the culmination of her career, but I'm terrifically glad that she's continued.

And if I am ever fortunate enough to meet her and her mother-in-law, I want to shake their hands and thank them for the courage to relate their experiences with abortion. I have acted as an escort for terrified young women going in for this wrenching procedure through groups of sanctimonious, vociferous, self-righteous protestors, and that experience combined with the images of back-room abortions convinces me that until birth control is cheap, easily available, and endorsed by religions, then a woman's right to medically safe methods to terminate a pregnancy must be legally protected.

Thank you, Julia Sweeney. You are indeed an ornament to our lives.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The audiobook is a must 7 août 2014
Par Rushmore - Publié sur
Format: CD Achat vérifié
I held on to this audiobook for over a year before I read it, not sure why but it was well worth the wait.

I did not even know till I started listening that Julia Sweeney is a neighbor. She lives maybe 5 miles north of me in the suburb of Wilmette. Pretty much my favorite line in the book is where Julia refers to Wilmette as a small town and her husband corrects her: "Wilmette is where people with money pay to have the small-town experience." So true.

The time frame of this story is a period of a month when she has her big ol' Wilmette house to herself (except for a brief stop-in by her husband between business trips). I'm sure it took longer to write than a month, but it is her time to catch up with herself and everything that has happened - the adoption of her daughter from China; a series of boy friends amusingly all designated "Joe" with numbers attached; the extraordinary meet-cute and subsequent marriage to Michael Blum; moving from L.A. to the Midwest; and her decision to stay home, observe and write and anchor her family.

Julia Sweeney is a funny lady, but not everything that happens in this book is funny. This is life, not fiction. She deals honestly, movingly and straightforwardly with the death of someone close to her, which I completely believe took place within the 4-week period. She has a conversation with her mother-in-law (this is why you have to have the audiobook, people) about abortion. Another reason the audiobook is mandatory: you must hear Mulan Sweeney-Blum read her essay on immigration in her family. Particularly after hearing Julia interpret her daughter's dialogue throughout the book, the sound of Mulan's own voice brought tears to my eyes.

Julia Sweeney was a featured player on one of the most popular TV shows on the planet, but she never got swept up in celebrity. She has said that she is living her dream right now. She has gone through some hard times but has the gift of finding humor when you need it most. It was a pleasure to listen to this book, start to finish. Highly recommended.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I have listened to this at least 4 times 22 mai 2013
Par M - Publié sur
Format: CD Achat vérifié
Excellent, funny and touching biography by Julia Sweeney. Now married after adopting a Chinese daughter from China. Julia searched the world over to adopt a child and it seems China only allows one child per couple. She goes into detail as the details of her decision to adopt. Much has happened since the adoption of Mulan (Julia's daughter)

Julia decides to write a book when she gets an entire month to her self. With Mulan in summer camp and her husband away, Julia thought the peace and quiet would be refreshing.

Since her last performance going into the adoption of Mulan, Juliet got married. It seems to have caused a bit of jealousy from Mulan. The child's funny remarks are wonderful.

The funniest part for me were The Birds and the Bees chapter. This had to be the most awkward conversation any parent has with an inquisitive child. It is hilarious.

Check this out for your self. You will listen to it over and over.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Like a comfortable sweater 6 juin 2013
Par Kai Opaka - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Even when I don't like Julia Sweeney, I like her, by which I mean even when she is discussing opinions or experiences that are far from my own, she manages to convey them in a manner that is not off-putting. I do not get offended and she never seems too preachy, but she writes in a manner that makes me care to read more to discover why she feels as she does. This particular book was a very good read for someone stressed with issues about her own aging, sometimes exasperating, but always much loved mother. It reminded me in places of some of Amy Tan's beautifully evocative words in The Joy Luck Club about the power of motherhood and a mother's depth of feeling. It is not that sort of book, but many of the same issues are touched on and Sweeney does so with a delicate grace, just as Tan does. Well worth a read, and a comfort if one needs something to read on a rainy day or late at night when one is having difficulty sleeping, or when one wishes to read about someone else's problems and get one's mind off one's own. It is a well-paced, well-structured and soothing sort of book & I highly recommend it on that basis.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Haven't even finished it! 7 avril 2013
Par Tiger mom - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I have not even finished this book and I find myself laughing, stopping to ponder what I just read in that last line, and thinking of the next free moment I have to pick up my iPad and continue reading. It is great writing because it is easy to read but not simple. it is clever, witty, well thought out and complex and well organized with a nice flow. I am buying 5 hardcover copies to give as gifts because I think it would be a shame to not have shared this with the other women I consider my friends!
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