My favorite passage in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway:
“Do you remember the lake? she said, in an abrupt voice, under pressure of an emotion which caught her heart, made the muscles of her throat stiff, and contracted her lips in a spasm as she said “lake.” For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks between her parents and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms which, as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said, “This is what I have made of it! This!” And what had she made of it? What, indeed? sitting there sewing this morning with Peter.”
This grappling with the fact that we are now the same person we were when we were a child reminds me of the passage that so struck me in Mary Gordon‘s The Rest of Life. With one important difference. Here, the narrator, Mrs. Dalloway, appears to be judging her life and finding it coming up short. This was in 1925.
Almost a hundred years later, so does Clara in Dani Shapiro‘s 2007 Black & White:
“…invariably Clara walked away from them feeling that there was a secret club of motherhood, complete with a password no one had ever given her. Why did this all seem so satisfying to them–the cupcake baking, the constant scheduling, the endless games of Candy Land? And what was wrong with Clara, what psychic disease caused her constant yearning for something more?”