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Constructing the (M)other

Narratives of Disability, Motherhood, and the Politics of «Normal»


Edited By Priya Lalvani

Constructing the (M)other is a collection of personal narratives about motherhood in the context of a society in which disability holds a stigmatized position. From multiple vantage points, these autoethnographies reveal how ableist beliefs about disability are institutionally upheld and reified. Collectively they seek to call attention to a patriarchal surveillance of mothering, challenge the trope of the good mother, and dismantle the constructed hierarchy of acceptable children. The stories contained in this volume are counter-narratives of resistance—they are the devices through which mothers push back. Rejecting notions of the otherness of their children, in these essays, mothers negotiate their identities and claim access to the category of normative motherhood. Readers are likely to experience dissonance, have their assumptions about disability challenged, and find their parameters of normalcy transformed.

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Chapter Four: An Unexpected Journey with My Mother (Maria T. Timberlake)


chapter 4

An Unexpected Journey with My Mother

Maria T. Timberlake

My mother and I used to go on small outings together. When she was in her 70s and retired from the telephone company, we developed a routine with a specific sequence of activities. We would meet half way between our respective towns and have lunch in a local restaurant, go for a walk, then browse in a bookstore. We savored every little decision; we discussed all the menu choices before selecting, then repeated the process as the afternoon continued and we narrowed down our choices in the bookstore—our rule was “just one.” Choosing just one was not easy but the challenge was a pleasurable part of the process. My mother had diabetes, so later, when we inevitably found ourselves in front of a display of chocolates (part of the routine!) we followed our “just one” rule. She would thoughtfully consider the options, then choose one sugar-free chocolate and savor it while I did the same with the most decadent-looking piece of dark chocolate available. We were aware of the privilege of choice—having the time to ponder, having an array of palatable options, and knowing that the end result of the choice would always be just fine. When we said goodbye at the end of the afternoon, she’d say things like “that was fun” and “I really enjoyed that!” and list what she appreciated about the day. Even when it had been...

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