Like many girls with open minded mothers who were of a certain age in the early 90s, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon hit my developing brain like a dropped piano. I read the omnibus edition obsessively for years, and came out of high school with much wider view on history (and women’s conspicuous absence from it), a vile hatred of Guinevere, and, most enduringly, a fierce love of strong women who do what has to be done. Needless to say if you’ve read the book, my favorite character was Vivianne, the Lady of the Lake, who is also my favorite mother in fiction
Vivianne wasn’t gentle with her children. She was loving, but her love was always tempered by duty and the needs of her religion. She was a mother, but she was also a priestess, and her struggle to fill both parts of this dual role equally endeared her to me forever. Looking back, she was the first mother I’d ever read about where having a life and a duty outside of her children was cast as a virtue for a heroine rather than a sign of compromised and insufficient motherhood. Here was a woman who worked her ass off, who had to be so hard, so tough, especially on her own children, and I respected that even as I became a rebellious teenage daughter myself. I love Vivianne because she stands as a reminder of the parts of motherhood that aren’t glorified on mother’s day. Of being tough and doing what has to be done, even when you don’t want to and no one is thanking you for it, least of all your children.
To all the tough moms out there, including mine, thank you and happy Mother’s Day.