The Moms behind Maureen McCullough
I am often asked where my characters come from. It’s a small vault I store in the big toe of my right foot. LOL! No. I honestly don’t know. I pull inspiration from every person I meet and every thing I hear, so there is always a mix of people compiling into one. But there is one character, a mother, that I love above all the characters I’ve written. Her name is Maureen McCullough and she is the matriarch of the McCullough Mountain series. And today I’m going to share exactly where she comes from.
Maureen is a compilation of all the incredible moms that inspired me throughout life and loved me even when I was hard to love. First and foremost, she is my mother. She is strong, maternal, nurturing, good with a wooden spoon, always there when you need her, and a champ at having children and identifying each one as an individual with unique gifts and talents. My mother had four children (I’m the favorite, the best one,the rest were just practice. I can say that because I’m pretty sure my brothers don’t read my stuff so there *sticks out tongue*). My mom is Irish, but she can cook with the best Italians. She can throw down an F bomb and still look like the classiest lady in a room. She is hilarious and big hearted and who we can count on when the chips are down. She always has wine and cookies and will literally drive to a farm a state away just to get the best ice cream if there is an emotional emergency. She makes the best chicken noodle soup and delivers it hot whenever we’re sick. She stuffs a thousand eggs at Easter for every kid she knows. And her corn bread is literally a sexual experience on a food level. She is, plain and simple, awesome. I love you, Mom!
But then there are the other parts of Maureen. Maureen can throw together a meal and feed an army. She can demand everyone attend and get them there. She is sensitive and beautiful and burns like a lobster in the sun. She is also pieces of my beautiful Aunt Carol. She is our matriarch and the creator of Maureen’s chicken casserole (Luke’s favorite). She is true and trusted and never too busy for her family. Happy Mother’s Day, Aunt Carol.
And then there is the crazy side of Maureen. She can’t drive. Seriously, I break out in a sweat every time I write a scene with Maureen behind the wheel. She works too hard taking care of the business side of things to have fancy nails. She’s always in a rush even when there’s nowhere to go. This is my Aunt Donna, who while taking us through yard sales along the Jersey shore one year, drove away with the passenger doors still open and my grandmother half in the car. She’s crazy, but you have to love her. She knows everything about everybody and if you have a secret you NEVER tell her. If she finds out, it’s over. My Aunt Donna loves to entertain and anyone is welcome at her table. She’s like a chaotic storm you sense coming and know by the time she leaves you’ll need a nap. From her smudged glasses to her functional shoes, I love this woman because I know for a fact there is not another person out there like her. I know you’re too busy and in a rush to read this, Aunt Donna, but I hope you have a nice Mother’s Day.
And then there is a woman who is so beautiful to me I could just squeeze her. She fills me with the same warmth as chocolate or the scent of homemade pie every time I see her. She talks so fast it’s like your brain has to go into translation mode to break down her words. She is a grandmother, yet maintains an innocence about her that will never fade. She is curvaceous and soft and maternal thus strong. She cleans with the speed of a jaguar and just loves to sit and watch the people go by when the work is done. She is known by all and loved by all. So popular for her goodhearted ways, her picture is even hanging in a hospital somewhere with a note under it that reads, “If you don’t know this woman you don’t exist.” She is my lovely Aunt Joanne. Happy Mother’s Day, Aunt Joanne. I love you.
And then there are the softest sides of Maureen. The moments we see her weep when her children’s hearts are broken and struggle to find a way to fix the unfixable. She is an ever loving creature who, despite any shortcomings, we know that she is good to the bone. My Aunt Linda inspires this goodness. She is the gentlest person I know. Her empathy for others is incredible and she has been there for me in quiet moments of sadness more than she probably realizes, always listening with compassion, and always understanding when there was nothing anyone could do but…listen and understand. Thank you for being the gentle spirit you are, Aunt Linda. Happy Mother’s Day.
So you see, there are many sides to Maureen McCullough and many inspiring people behind her character. I know what it is to love a character so much you want to reach in the book and pull them into your real life. I am lucky enough to have the incredible women that make Maureen in my every day life and for that I am truly grateful.
In closing, I’d like to mention two other important people on this Mother’s Day: My grandmothers, Mary and Mary. Yes, they are both named Mary like in the McCullough Mountain books, and yes, one is Italian (well, actually Polish, but after years of being married to an Italian the culture sort of took over) and the other is Irish. Italian Mary has knotty knuckles from working with her hands and sewing and cooking. She hides them under fancy jewels because she is not above vanity. Her cooking is best. Period. Do NOT argue with her about it. Sigh. We lost my grandmother this year to Alzheimers, but she was an amazingly strong woman who taught us how to put up with each other and be a family rich in tradition. I am lucky to have had such a person in my life. And then there is Irish Mary. She is quiet and reserved but will not hesitate to mess you up if you need a good reality check. The contrast of my grandmothers is clear, but somehow they summered together at the Jersey shore and put up with each other despite their different opinions on meddling and life. When I look at my Irish grandmother I sit back and see her quiet strength and I know I am strong because she is. It’s in my blood with a mix of so many other incredible women who have mothered me well and taught me how to be exactly who I am. And I am happy.
Happy Mother’s Day, All.
Find Maureen McCullough making maternal memories in all of the McCullough Mountain Series! Maureen’s story will be the final book of the McCullough Mountain Series, which releases late 2015. You won’t want to miss it!