Hey Hester, Happy Mother’s Day
by Elizabeth Bastos
Hester Prynne, heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, never once in the whole book receivethed (this is how they spoketh in those Puritan days) a Mother’s Day card. I want to send her one. Sure she’s fiction, a construct; The Scarlet Letter is subtitled A Romance. But couldn’t motherhood itself be subtitled A Romance, and especially on Mother’s Day? Who wants to dwell in the laundry and the unsaid upsets that we mothers daily subduct into the vast molten core of our patience?
Hester Prynne is called by many critics the first feminist in American literature. (Booyah, Smithies.) But actually that’s really sad, because Hester’s life is one long suck on the the end of the ice cream cone of shame and bullshit. She has the short end of the stick, until near the end of the “romance” when Hawthorne has her transform (in the vast molten core of her patience) the letter A to from sinner to bodAcious. Awesome. She becomes what my daughter’s preschool calls: “a community helper.” Like letter carriers, and teachers.
This Mother’s Day I have some mother-questions for Hester.
Like, did your daughter Pearl get an allowance? There was that Puritan edict that colors had to be somber, so did the Sadd colors have to be washed cold? Also, how is it you didn’t spank Pearl when she was such a precocious little shit, always asking Reverend Dimmesdale if he might in fact be her father? I have come quite close many times with my daughter when she won’t bring in her collection of My Little Ponies, but actually when I say it like that I realize your situation and my situation are so different.
What I want to say is hey, Hester Prynne, you’re doing a really good job as a fictional mother, and I salute you. As a modern real-life mother, on my shirt there is an A for underpAid and 40-something and bAke sAle, and that gets really old, and is burdensome, too.
Elizabeth Bastos is a WAHM of two under 10 in the Baltimore suburbs. Her writing has appeared in McSweeneys, The Big Jewel, The Smithsonian’s Food and Think blog, and Funny Not Slutty. She reviews books for Book Riot, and muses about parenting, suffering, and cheese-making on her blog, Goody Bastos.