LOST & FOUND: One Daughter’s Story of Amazing Grace
In an opening letter to her readers, Kathryn (“Kitty”) Slattery says, “All of us have a story to tell. When we choose to share our stories, extraordinary things can happen.” Most memoirs focus on a certain theme --- a thread that runs through the author’s life. And here Slattery draws out “the story of my mother and me --- two very different people.” In these pages, there is keen insight for daughters who have wished for better mothering. It’s not that Kitty had a stereotypically abusive mother, but one with a perfectionist bent, a self-absorbed view.
Kitty’s childhood home looked a lot like that of other baby boomers --- a successful corporate father and a devoted wife who tended her family. (Did she really wear pumps as she vacuumed?) Kitty’s one sibling was 10 years her senior, which plays into the family dynamics. One day young Kitty discovered a document that implied that her older sister was a step-sister, that her mother had been divorced before marrying Kitty’s father. But Kitty’s mother wouldn’t answer her questions. “Don’t be a snoop,” she said. And, “This is none of your business… And it’s certainly nothing for you to worry about.” But Kitty was a worrier. “With the discovery of the birth certificate in the breakfront, my world had been turned upside down and inside out. The fact that things were out of order, and that things might not be as they seemed, scared me to death.”
Kitty obviously needed a mother who would listen to her, explain mysteries rather than withhold information, encourage her rather than ridicule. As Kitty saw it, “she was not exactly the kind of mother I wanted and needed.” Nor was Kitty the perfect daughter, primed to catch the perfect man. “Oh, Kitty,” Mrs. Mother said one day. “You think too much… Boys don’t like girls who think too much.” A little overweight (having once bought clothes in the “‘Chubbette’ department at Sears”) in high school, Kitty felt parental pressure to take off the extra pounds. Dieting led to self-purging --- and this in the late 1960s, before magazine articles explained the phenomenon, before eating disorders took Karen Carpenter’s life. It was Kitty’s dark secret --- like her father’s chronic drinking.
In college Kitty committed her life to Christ, a turning point in her life, though not the end of her struggle with bulimia. That abated only after she realized it was a not uncommon disease; she no longer felt uniquely dysfunctional and found the inner resources and community support --- principally a secure relationship with the man she married --- to live on an even keel.
In the last third of LOST & FOUND, after Kitty has children of her own, she works on mending her relationship with her mother, even bringing her into a “mother-in-law apartment” in her suburban home. Here she comes to a new understanding of her mother that one can hope for in middle age. She sensed God saying, “I’m giving you this time with her.” For what purpose? Kitty wasn’t sure, but, looking for grace, she eventually found out.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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