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Glitter and Glue

Cover of Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue

A Memoir

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place comes a new memoir that examines the bond--sometimes nourishing, sometimes exasperating, occasionally divine--between mothers and daughters.

When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the division of labor in her family as "Your father may be the glitter but I'm the glue." This meant exactly nothing to Kelly, who left her childhood sure that her mom--with her inviolable commandments, curious introversion, and proud stoicism--would be nothing more than background for the rest of Kelly's life, which she was carefully orienting toward adventure. After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler's checks, she took off for Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji to see things and do things and Become Interesting.

But it didn't turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her fanny pack full of savings had dwindled to a handful of cash and it became clear that unless she was ready to go home, she needed a job. That's how she met John Tanner, a newly widowed Australian father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that small, motherless house in a suburb north of Sydney, her mother's voice was suddenly everywhere, playing like talk radio from hidden speakers, nudging and nagging, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day she spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, trying to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its shadowy spiral.

This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it's about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place comes a new memoir that examines the bond--sometimes nourishing, sometimes exasperating, occasionally divine--between mothers and daughters.

When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the division of labor in her family as "Your father may be the glitter but I'm the glue." This meant exactly nothing to Kelly, who left her childhood sure that her mom--with her inviolable commandments, curious introversion, and proud stoicism--would be nothing more than background for the rest of Kelly's life, which she was carefully orienting toward adventure. After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler's checks, she took off for Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji to see things and do things and Become Interesting.

But it didn't turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her fanny pack full of savings had dwindled to a handful of cash and it became clear that unless she was ready to go home, she needed a job. That's how she met John Tanner, a newly widowed Australian father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that small, motherless house in a suburb north of Sydney, her mother's voice was suddenly everywhere, playing like talk radio from hidden speakers, nudging and nagging, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day she spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, trying to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its shadowy spiral.

This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it's about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.

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    I shouldn't be here. That's what I'm realizing as I follow John Tanner down the hall of his house in suburban Australia. After the interview, I should've called back and said it wasn't going to work. But I had no choice. I needed money, or I'd be back on my mother's doorstep within a month, and wouldn't that please her to no end?

    It's her fault. That's another thought I'm having as I set down my backpack on a single bed in a room with a skylight but no windows, and John Tanner says, "I hope this will be okay." If she had given me even a little money . . . a loan . . .

    This is not what I left home for. That's the chalky horse pill I choke down when John Tanner says the kids are so excited about me moving in, they'll be in here bouncing on my bed in no time. "First nanny and all," he says.

    I'm a nanny, a fucking nanny.

    For the record, I didn't touch down in Oz, open The Sydney Morning Herald, and circle "Recent Widower Looking for Live-­in Nanny." If anything, I was thinking bartending, or at least waitressing. Good money, tons of laughs, guys everywhere.

    My college roommate Tracy and I had been traveling for two months, burning through cash, so when we got off the bus in downtown Sydney, we filled out applications at all the restaurants and bars that sounded Yank-­friendly: Uncle Sam's, Texas Rib Joint, New York Steak House. We followed up, we waited. Seven days in, we broadened the search--­surf shacks, burger joints, cafés, pubs. Nobody would hire us. We called friends of friends and left messages asking if they knew of any temp work. No one called us back. We tried all the bulletins posted at the hostels. No one would bend the rules to let us work under the table. So after three weeks, we did what no self-­respecting globe-­trotter would: We looked in the help-­wanted ads for nanny gigs, all of which were in the 'burbs, where we would meet zero boys and have zero big experiences and learn nothing about anything.

    I picked a rich family with an indoor pool and views of the Sydney Opera House, but Eugenia Brown turned out to be a total despot, and after I made a funny face about scrubbing her pool tiles and dragged my heels about helping with a mailing regarding her availability as a bridge tutor, I pointed out that her ad had said nanny, not nanny plus housecleaner plus personal assistant, at which point she said I was her first American--­she usually hired Asians, who had "worked out so nicely"--­and that I might be too "unionized." Then she fired me.

    After that, I interviewed with four more families. I told Smiley Vicki in Chatswood that I was open to babysitting on weekend nights, which would suck, and Skinny Jane on Cove Lane that I knew CPR. Didn't matter. No one wanted a nanny who could only stay for five months, so I went back to the newspaper, and the widower's ad was still there.

    John Tanner was older than I thought a man with a seven-­year-­old and a five-­year-­old would be. His mustache was graying, and his hairline had rolled back a touch from where it started. His shoulders were sloped, giving him the outline of my grandmother's Frigidaire. All in all, he struck me as someone who might participate in Civil War reenactments.

    In a conversation that lasted under an hour, he explained that he was a steward for Qantas and used to work the overnights to New Zealand, Tokyo, and Singapore. It had been six months since his wife passed, and it was time to resume his usual schedule. He needed an extra pair of hands, someone who could drive the kids to school when he was flying. He didn't care that I couldn't commit to a year. He couldn't either....

About the Author-
  • Kelly Corrigan is the author of The Middle Place and Lift, both New York Times bestsellers. She is also a contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Medium. Kelly co-founded Notes & Words, an annual benefit concert for Children's Hospital Oakland featuring writers and musicians onstage together. Her YouTube channel, which includes video essays like "Transcending" and interviews with writers like Michael Lewis and Anna Quindlen, has been viewed by millions. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Edward Lichty, their two daughters, and a poorly behaved chocolate lab, Hershey.

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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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