Moms have a constant fear of something happening to their children. We all know that in a flick of a moment their lives -- and ours --- could hurl in a new direction with an accident, illness, or other tragedy. There are times that I read the paper and see news of an accident involving a child and the chill of "it only takes a moment" washes over me.
Reading THE BROOKE ELLISON STORY, readers will go behind the scenes of just such a tragedy and where it takes one family in its wake. When she was 11 years old, Brooke Ellison headed home from her first day of school, choosing to walk across a busy street rather than take the bus as she had planned. As she was crossing the street she was struck by a car and instantly became a quadriplegic. Her mom Jean was having her own "first day of school" that day, finally returning to teaching after years of raising her family.
After the accident the entire Ellison family's world changes dramatically, but the impact of the tragedy most affects Brooke and Jean. First there is hospitalization and rehabilitation for Brooke, and then it is time for her to go on with her life --- her new life. But it's very clear that just as Brooke is at an age where she should be getting on with her life without her mom, she is now more dependent than ever. Their journey begins with Brooke's return to school, where the only way she can attend is with her mom --- no one else can be trusted with her critical care.
And from there Jean begins her new vigil --- spending the days at school with her daughter that will take them through middle school, high school and eventually onto Harvard, where Brooke graduates magna cum laude in 2000. The story is told in a diary-like format, with both voices alternating in each chapter.
Their story is one of courage, determination, and goals. It's a story about family --- and the power of love, because fulfilling Brooke's dreams impacts her entire family.
Towards the end of the book comes an interesting commentary about the relationship between children and their mothers that has stayed with me. Brooke details that while most teens and college-aged kids were arguing with their parents, she did not have that luxury. I am going to quote her here since I think there is a lesson here for moms and their children. "When do most girls fight with their mothers? It's when they're growing up. And what do they usually fight about? They fight about wearing makeup and how much they can put on. They fight about having boyfriends in the house, going on dates and staying out past curfew. They squabble over getting that first job, a driver's license, and borrowing the car. They fight over the rites of passage that I never had. Most girls don't realize it, but those fights are luxuries."
She goes on to say, "As much as I would have loved to have had those luxuries, sometimes it takes a situation like the one my mother and I are in to understand how unimportant all those luxuries really are. None of them are ever worth fighting over."
As we celebrate Mother's Day, ponder that thought. And the next time you and your children argue and struggle as they try to become their own people, see it as a luxury, not a burden.
Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on October 6, 2004
The Brooke Ellison Story: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey