When I was 10 years old, my dream of living as an orphan was swiftly derailed when my parents refused to die. How else could I achieve the spunky, independent status that comes from living without parents who constantly insist on manners and bathing and church on Sundays?
Being orphaned was the best option, but being motherless would work, too. My mom was aware of my wish for a motherless future and seemed to take it personally. She’d tell me to stop lying around the house like a depressed sloth because she had no intention of leaving me motherless. She assumed once I was permanently without maternal supervision I’d start drinking Coca-Cola and swear.
I blame literature for my orphanic life goals. Most of the books I read featured young women who endured their motherless lives with flair.
Jessie Alden, the 12-year-old heroine from “The Boxcar Children,” was one of my role models. After her parents’ death, Jessie lived with her siblings in an abandoned boxcar, keeping it tidy and preparing tasty meals by picking berries and gathering random kitchen scraps that she turned into delicious stew. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t even boil an egg, I wanted to live with my sisters and brother in an abandoned train car. Still do.
Pippi Longstocking had a big house in a Swedish village and a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson. With her mother dead and her father lost at sea, Pippi’s outlandish behavior never got her grounded from the TV. In fact, she had a horse, a suitcase full of gold, and no one telling her to go to bed before midnight.
Left at a boarding school, motherless Sara Crewe learns her father is missing in the war, and probably dead. She enters a life of servitude at the school and uses her imagination to stay upbeat by telling stories. I could tell stories for food. That’s basically what I do..
Scout Finch, the crusading heroine in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” got along just fine without a mother. She wasn’t afraid to fight for what she knew was right. Scout inspired me to think about what justice really means, and to be outraged when justice isn’t served.
And the queen of them all, Nancy Drew, shaped my entire life. With her wealthy father, Carson Drew, and her band of friends Ned, Bess and George, Nancy drove her fancy convertible through River Heights, her Midwestern hometown that seemed to be bustling with international criminals.
If her small town hosted so many depraved lawbreakers, certainly Murray, Utah, could have its share of brazen jewel thieves. Nancy was plucky and fearless as she investigated broken lockets, whispering statues and tolling bells. Her adventures left me breathless with jealousy because I knew her success could be directly attributed to her motherless stature.
Then there’s Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre and even Cinderella—all motherless success stories.
However. Several years ago, I found myself without a mom. I was devastated. I discovered it wasn’t cool at all. It certainly didn’t allow me to live in a Swedish boxcar while telling stories, crusading for justice and solving mysteries.
I finally realized that her influence is what taught me to be a kind, independent, free-thinking, literate, crusader for justice. Being motherless is not what it’s cracked up to be. But my mom was right about one thing–I did start drinking Coca-Cola and swearing.