I absolutely loved reading this memoir! The Middle Place is about the author’s experiences during “that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap.” Kelly Corrigan is married and has two children. It is while her concerns for her parents grow that she finds herself in a health crisis and shortly thereafter discovers her Dad too has to face and endure his own health crisis. During this season of caring for her family, her parents, and her health, Kelly “finally takes the leap and grows up.”
The story is beautifully told. I was inspired as I journeyed with Kelly through her trails and day-to-day living. I thought of my own two parents who still remain very much independent. “The Middle Place” represents a whole arena of emotional content. I don’t think we as “kids” ever grow up or do we? Yes, we may mature and finally start to view our parents and other life struggles through a wiser set of eyes. We may have become independent ourselves and have our days filled with worthwhile projects and endeavors and dreams in process of turning into realities. No matter what though, when I am in the presence of my mom or dad, I still “feel” like the “kid” and I am not sure if that part of us ever changes. So, when faced with our parents having to deal with health issues or loss of personal independence, I can only imagine how crazy of a season that is. Our parents are the strong ones or the ones in charge, so when the roles start to change or flip, what an adjustment. Kelly was honest in her struggles, yet quite humorous in her telling.
As you can see from my following favorite quotes:
“The way I see it, if you have four kids, you don’t really have to do anything else, ever. Three kids is a handful, but one that many people manage to hold. If you’re a mother of our, you definitely don’t have to have a career or volunteer for the school fund-raiser or even bring an appetizer to the dinner party. In fact, people give you a lot of credit for wearing both earrings and knowing how to spell chaos and antidepressant. Four kids gives you a pass for every forgotten birthday, overlooked appointment, and missing form. Plus, you can be late for everything the rest of your life and never return phone calls. Who’s gonna blame you? It’s like having nonthreatening cancer, forever” (p. 215).
Kelly learns from her doctor she may not have any more kids, at least for the next few years. I cracked up laughing while reading how she responded.
“But I’ll be forty-two in five years,” I say, like he should be ashamed of himself for leading me on. And then he says the thing that everyone says, the thing that pisses me off every goddamn time, not only because it’s Pollyanna bullshit but also because there is no response to it that doesn’t make you look like that greedy brat, Veruca Salt, who wasn’t satisfied even in Willy Wonka’s bountiful factory.
“You do have two beautiful girls,” he said, recalling our first appointment when I showed him the pictures of Georgia and Claire on my key chain.
“Would you say “you do have nine beautiful fingers” to a man who just lost his thub? Unless you have eight fingers, Id’ say you should keep your glass-half-full crap to yourself” (217-218).
“Once, when I was seven months pregnant, Edward and I were on a street corner in Paris. We had two or three bags each and—choosing to heed the call of my addiction over the sound judgment of my husband, who queried, “Don’t you have enough to carry?”—I had a hot cup of caffeine. Rain came out of nowhere, and every cab shot by, carrying dry and grateful passengers who were tickled not to be us. There wasn’t really anywhere to dash into while the rain turned to hail, and well, I just started crying right there on the street corner like a big dumb baby who couldn’t possible cope with the usual travel hassles, much less parenthood. Maybe twenty dreadful minutes later, after we had thrown our bags willy-nilly into the trunk of a cab and settled into the backseat, my latte nearly finished, Edward said, “You’re not very stoic, are you?” Now, you can only turn down the dials on your lesser qualities for so long. So it was out: I was not “a tough cookie,” “a real Girl Scout,” “a trouper.” I was in fact, “not very stoic” (p. 222).
*First off, I just have to say, “seven months pregnant” comes with its own privileges and rights and I say breaking down crying in tough situations or gosh in any situation is deserved and perfectly normal! Second off, you bet I too would have had my Starbucks in hand even if I couldn’t possibly manage my purse and all of my various luggage bags. Priorities, people, and caffeine is definitely on that priority list! Okay, and thirdly, Kelly, I’m with you…certain circumstances do have a way of taking it out of me and tears are my knee jerk reaction. I wish I was there to have helped you two get into a cab even if that meant be yelling and running into the road…almost into the path of a fast approaching cab anyways…letting them think I was going all out in that moment would have been good enough to get their attention.
You would love reading about her childbirth experience!
A more serious moment but totally raw honest and REAL…
“It’s just—it’s just that I feel such distance from my body—“ My voice is shaky. “sorry—but you keep talking about how your body works, and mine, I mean, I have no control over it.” My eyes fill with tears, “I’m sorry, you guys—but it’s just incredible to hear all your optimism, your conviction that you can make your body do all these things. I mean, do you think you can make your body safe? Do you think you can make your body heal?” I can’t get myself together, “I’m sorry, Edward,” I say, looking across at him and hoping I’m not humiliating him with all this sloppy emotion. “I actually sort of resent my body—oh God, I’m sorry. Talk about a buzz kill.” I don’t know if people around us are watching me. I don’t know how loud I’m talking or if my tone is ugly or my lips are puffy like Georgia’s get when she cries. I need to blow my nose, but the starched linen napkin in my lap is too think” (p. 232).
Marriage, children, family, health, relationships, life’s seasons and so much more touched upon in this story. A good read for those in the “sandwich” or facing health challenges or a diagnosis that changes everything.
Kelly Corrigan is a wonderful writer. She is the creator of CircusofCancer.org, which I encourage you to check out.