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. Download and start listening now!
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.