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December 11, 2009

Leila Cobo: My Mother’s Gift

Posted by webmaster
In Tell Me Something True, Leila Cobo unfolds the story of a young woman who finds a diary that belonged to her late mother and learns about the secret life she led. Leila, today's guest blogger, talks about how she came to write the novel and what some readers of the book have revealed to her.

My mother was a beautiful woman.

My earliest memories of her are infused by that beauty, by her sense of style, of just-so-ness. Everything my mother touched, worked. She could take the flimsiest piece of wrapping paper and produce a gorgeous-looking gift. She could fill out school forms and never cross out or erase words; everything always managed to fit. She could orchestrate elaborate dinners and classroom parties, bake chocolate cakes, sew back buttons and fix whatever was ailing me, it didn't matter what or when or where. One of my lasting images of my mother is watching her as she left for the annual New Year's Eve party with my father, resplendent in her gala dress, and the next morning, at 7 a.m., they'd return, and she would look as lovely as ever, as if she had just stepped out of a magazine despite the tumultuousness of that never-ending night.

And yet, now that I have children of my own, I realize how little I really knew who my mother was then; how limited my understanding of her ambitions and wants and general state of happiness.

Ironically, Tell Me Something True wasn't written upon this premise. Instead, the story of a girl who finds out that everything she knows about her mother is a lie stemmed from my grandmother's death when my mother was barely two years old. As a result, my mother has no memories at all of her own mother, except those that others have fed her.

On my end, when I became pregnant with my first child --- my daughter --- I was terrified at the prospect of dying before she got to know me (morbid, I know). And so, I started to write a diary for my child, chronicling the mundane, every day things we did, the little seemingly insignificant occurrences that actually make up the core of a person's life. The diary led to the "what if." What if all those things you took for granted were predicated upon a lie.

As I've spoken with more and more readers of Tell Me Something True I've been surprised at how many have a secret in their lives. And also, at how many have come to realize through the years that they really have never known their parents beyond their parenting role.

This desire to go beyond the façade our parents put up for us is an unintended consequence of the novel. But it's been a rather beautiful consequence borne directly from my readers and which, at a personal level, has led me to not only re examine my own relationship with my mother but to gain new appreciation for the person she was and the person she has become.

---Leila Cobo