This memoir concentrates on a piece of Kelly Corrigan’s life in which she seems to come of age. From her own description, she seems to have been a contrarian child, not eager to please her mother, far closer to, and more accepting of, her father. After graduation from college, she lived with her grandmother, saved her money and set off to travel with a friend. Unfortunately, she didn’t plan her trip well enough and soon ran out of money. She needed to work, but the only job that she could get that would pay her under the table was that of a nanny, and this was not how she saw herself.
Working for a widower, his motherless children, stepson and father-in-law, was an eye-opening experience for Kelly. She suddenly realized what a responsibility it was to be a parent, but mainly how hard it was to be a mother and how empty someone’s life could be without one. As she got to know the children and extended family, and began to interact more and more with them, she came to understand the enormity of the task. It was daunting, and she wondered if she was up to it. Suddenly, she began to appreciate all her mother had done for her and to understand why she did certain things that she once disagreed with vehemently.
Growing up, Kelly was closer to her father, and she did not particularly like her mother’s parenting skills. Her mother was a no-nonsense figure who made the rules and set the standards to be followed. Her father was the softie, the Yin to her mother’s Yang. Her mother told Kelly that her father was the glitter and she was the glue, and from that, the title was born. As Kelly began to mature into a responsible adult, she became more and more like her mother and understood the value of having both the glue and the glitter in one’s life.
Through several emotional events, Kelly seemed to work her way toward self-discovery and a greater understanding of her own life and superficial relationships. When she had to deal with life on a more serious note, when she had to operate on a more adult level, she realized how important her actions were because they had consequences which could sometimes be quite serious. She had really been immature and unaware of the intricacies of the workings of a home and a family. She took everything for granted and often made several foolish, thoughtless choices.
With this memoir, she introduced the reader to the true story of her relationship with her mom and she explored her newfound respect for her as she grew, married and had a family of her own. She discovered how much her mother meant to her, even though she was not affectionate, not demonstrative. She laid the foundation of Kelly’s parenting skills. Her mother was not a bubbly, carefree parent, although she was described that way by those with whom she worked. She had facets to her personality that Kelly never realized.
I didn’t find Kelly that likeable as a child or young adult. She seemed to want to push the envelope too much, to be defiant without giving a thought to the reactions her actions would generate. She shoplifted; she lied, often acted without thinking things through, made rash decisions, even while working as a nanny, while she was responsible for the care of minor children. She just seemed so spoiled and immature, at times, and completely self-absorbed. Most of her thoughts dwelled on anything in pants. She was always fantasizing about something sexual, and she drank too much even when it was inappropriate, forgetting that she should be on her toes since she had to care for two small children who depended on her.
I was surprised at her mother’s behavior as well. Although the dangers of smoking were well known as Kelly grew up, her mom smoked like a chimney in small, enclosed spaces, without regard for the danger she was posing to her family. They all seemed so wrapped up in themselves. I didn’t find her description of her mother’s antics to be that authentic for someone her mother’s age, but rather for someone a generation older. Women of her generation didn’t wear hair spray or sleep with satin pillows to protect their coiffure. Perhaps it would have been a more appropriate description of her grandmother.
To me this was a memoir about self discovery. As she matured and rediscovered her mother, she saw her mother in herself. She became more open to the different facets of her mother’s personality, more understanding about how her mother raised her. She seemed to have matured late and learned about true relationships and human emotions through trauma or necessity.
The memoir didn’t feel real for my world. I thought she simply took one major event and used it to jump off into a description about her learning experience about parenting and her relationship with her mom. Any event might do. It didn’t feel unique or creative. I could not identify with her or her experiences with her mom and hardly with how she felt about her children. My experience with my own daughter and her family does not parallel Kelly’s in the slightest. None of the people I know fit so neatly into any category. In the end, she discovers how much she truly cares for and emulates her mother, but I was surprised that she didn’t learn more from her experiences with the Tanner family. Rather than step into the shoes of her mother, she could have combined a bit of her father and her mother, the glitter and the glue, in the raising of her own children.