We read this White Dresses by Mary Pflum Peterson with my book club. And then Mary came and chatted with us, her readers.
The book is written by a Catholic Midwesterner journalist named Mary — See where I’m going here? How can you not love her?! She tells the story of her mother, a former nun, who had a hoarding disorder.
The real-life Mary is a super charming, authentic Upper West Side mother. She listened to us as we asked questions about her journey — Why did she never seem to get angry at her mother? Why did her mother not value her daughter’s work as a TV producer and journalist?
Mary loved her mother unconditionally. I loved the way Mary loved.
Eventually in the story of Mary’s adulthood, there was no room for anyone to visit the family house — only newspapers and mice could fit in a home where people should be. The book definitely made me think about my own relationship with stuff. I always want room for bodies — big, small, old, young.
I related to Mary’s mother who was a teacher. As a fairly new teacher, I wondered, How did she keep track of all the essays, papers, quizzes? I recall one scene where her car is littered with fast food bags and lesson plans.
We no longer have a car. Yesterday I decluttered the laundry area and I found one jug of anti-freeze and one jug of car window washer fluid. Big jugs taking up space. We live in a Manhattan apartment. What was I doing hanging onto the car paraphernalia? It’s been four years since we had a car. Ugh.
I was mad at those jugs, mad at myself. Mad at Mary’s mother who saw no difference between the jewels of her students’ work and McDonald’s wrappers in her cluttered car.
The things we save have value. Collect memories. Not things.
This book is a keeper. But friends matter more. Through this book I made a new friend.
I hosted a party recently and one friend told me she’d never seen my apartment so minimal. That’s how I like it.
Incidentally, this week the book is offered for .99 cents on Kindle. white dresses on kindle