Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Claire and Mia Fontaine's "Have Mother, Will Travel"

Mia Fontaine is an author, writer and motivational speaker whose past appearances include Good Morning America, The O’Reilly Factor, and The Montel Williams Show. She has spoken nationally about drug addiction and the long-term cost of child sexual abuse. Claire Fontaine is the author of two memoirs, a national public speaker and a former screenwriter.

In their bestselling memoir, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back, readers around the world were inspired by the story of Mia’s harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire’s, desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World, their second book together, and reported the following:
Page 99, which is entirely in Mia’s voice, is indicative of Have Mother, Will Travel in that Mia is in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the 20 cities we raced through on the global scavenger hunt that comprises the first have of the book; and that it shows the capacity of travel to illuminate and to deepen relationships, with yourself and others. It’s not representative in that it’s only one voice—the book is written in alternating narratives by both Mia and Claire, her mother.

Ten years ago after the events that led us to co-author our bestselling memoir, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back (2008), we were each at a crossroads in life, Claire as a mid-life woman who, oops, forgot to plan for life after motherhood and Mia, who at twenty-five was finding adult life not all it’s cracked up to be. And the relationship we worked so hard to heal after the events chronicled in Come Back had grown distant, strained. So we decided to set off on a grand adventure to transform our relationship and ourselves once more – and to study women’s lives and the mother/adult daughter relationship globally.

The first half of the book, titled Hunting, covers an exhausting, exhilarating competitive race around the world to raise money for charities (think Amazing Race without cameras or prize money.) The second half, titled Gathering, covers the four months we lived in the medieval heart of Avignon, in Provence. Avignon turned out to be a perfect city for two women to redefine and renew their relationship, and to create, and in Claire’s case recreate, a vision of an intentional life once home.

We wrote it as we did Come Back, in alternating voices, so you always get two views of the world and of us as women and as mother and daughter. We examined women’s lives, motherhood—and daughterhood—in countries as varied as Nepal, China, Malaysia, Egypt, the Balkans, Hungary, France. Mia’s keen observations of twentysomethings outside the U.S., who seem more content and mature, led her to shift her perceptions, and eventually, her behavior and choices. The world had so much to teach us, and, we think, our readers; it changed our lives forever.

On page 99, Mia writes about the long term residue of being sexually abused as a child as it comes up for her while visiting with a charming, boisterous group of young girls in Alexandria, Egypt. Here it is:
Cairo: Never Ride a One-humped Camel

pretense of exploring so I could have a moment alone. Since arriving in Cairo, we’ve been met everywhere by smiling young girls, holding hands, linking arms, singing, chattering. It’s been a delight to see them at every turn, but it’s been difficult as well.

It surprised me, that sudden feeling of sadness and longing. I’ve dealt with being sexually abused as a child but that doesn’t mean I never have issues come up around it; I still have triggers, movie scenes that bother me disproportionately, times when I’m inexplicably scared or randomly get that sick, frozen feeling that something bad is about to happen.

Mostly, it saddens me that I never felt completely safe growing up, that in the back of my head I knew of the potential for human cruelty and felt like there was something wrong with me at an age when most kids think they can conquer the world.

Yesterday it was all around me. Those luminous eyes that followed us wherever we went were beautiful reminders of a painful truth: I’ve always lived with some degree of fear and sadness. But I must have gotten that out of my system yesterday because today I’m genuinely loving being with these girls.

This is still a newer skill for me: acknowledging and letting myself feel my feelings. It took me a while to realize that the more I let myself sink into whatever’s coming up, the sooner it dissipates. This is true in general, but for me it’s been especially true for anything abuse-related, where I tended to trivialize and minimize.

Once I turned eight, I lost my most intense memories of the abuse, but I’ve always remembered remembering, the way someone with amnesia might have a déjà vu–like awareness of something, without a concrete memory. Which can make you feel crazy. I was embarrassed and aggravated to be so affected by something I barely remembered, and I thought people would tell me I was being overdramatic or to just get over it.

It really wasn’t until a few years ago that I fully stopped doing this. One, writing Come Back put me in touch with thousands of readers, scores of whom also didn’t remember the events themselves but had the same long-term feelings and behaviors. Two, through speaking engagements I was lucky enough to meet neuroscientists and child-development experts, and a huge light bulb moment for me was learning that childhood trauma (especially when it happens before you learn to speak
Learn more about the book and authors at Claire and Mia Fontaine’s website and the Have Mother, Will Travel Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Have Mother, Will Travel.

--Marshal Zeringue