But I have discovered something about modest people.
If there’s any singular, capital-T Truth threaded through Adult Onset, the latest by author and playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, it’s this: if you don’t make amends with your suffering, you’ll pass it along.
Coughing up the troubling snapshots of your own past can soften their lingering sting, and can maybe even stave off the doom (yes, doom) of repeating your own devastating history. Logic suggests that the not-so-fun game of misery hot potato stops there.
This parable is drawn out through the character of Mary Rose MacKinnon. Like MacDonald, Mary Rose is a successful author raising two young children with her theatre director wife in the yummy mummy stronghold of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Her aging parents are increasingly fragile but well-meaning, sending emails bursting with parental pride over Mary Rose’s queer role-model status in light of Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project, whose videos they have just discovered. All seems well on the surface, until domestic tensions trigger the recurrence of symptoms from a childhood illness, a psychological flare-up of repressed memory is ignited in turn. Enter: mommy issues.
“There are schools of mental health thought which predict that if you went through a trauma for example, or a difficult time at a certain age—with, perhaps, your mother—then if you have a child, when they enter that same phase of life you might find yourself re-enacting it,” says MacDonald. “But you’ll be playing a different part—that of perpetrator, abuser, person who loves you that hurts you. Otherwise often known as your parent.”
But Mary Rose’s mother is also wounded, a Catholic stay-at-home matriarch of the Mother’s Little Helper epoch who suffered miscarriages, crib deaths and postpartum depressions. As both mother and daughter age into new life-phases, their overlapping wounds take on new meaning.
"Much like the protagonist, I never expected to be a mother. I certainly never expected to be married. When I was younger, as soon as I understood I was a lesbian at age five before I knew there was a word for it, I thought ‘This is trouble. You’re never getting married.’ Brave new world, that has such married people in it. So no, I never thought that parenthood ever conferred any kind of adult status on anyone. In fact, a lot of people hurdle backwards when they’re responsible for someone else. That is not a magic wand."
~ Kelli Korducki, Hazlitt