Judy Blume was by far the most oft-read and beloved author of my childhood. Her realistic characters resonated with me from the moment I turned the first pages of “Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing,” to my closing the back cover of “Summer Sisters.” Her words had a profound effect on my young psyche; I hold them responsible for instilling my voracious literary appetite. Her novels hold a unique place in my heart, a place with overflowing admiration, appreciation and undying nostalgia. It is my pleasure to introduce this piece on Blume by Tania Gonzalez, an actor, mother, and dear friend whose life experiences have run quite parallel to those of famed and fabled “Margaret” of Blume’s most famous novel. I hope you’re as inspired by Tania’s words as I am. –Ashley
Are you there, Judy Blume? It’s me. I’m a mom now?
My mother never had “the talk” with me. She was a wonderfully caring mother who was traumatized as a girl by getting her first period. My grandmother neglected to explain things to her and when the time came, she recalls sitting on the toilet in the girls’ bathroom at school, screaming that she was dying. She was not. She just became a woman, with all that entails. When my turn came, she was at a loss as to how best to explain things, least of all sex, so instead, I was handed a book by the incomparable Judy Blume.
“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” was a different kind of something. Looking back on it, I had no idea at the time how significant it would become. The most compelling memories of that book came from the longing to understand what the heck was happening to me. Suddenly I was no longer a young girl. I was unsure of everything, especially my body! After reading this book, I knew someone understood. I didn’t even go to my mother to discuss it. I knew she knew, and that it was some sort of wonderful unspoken understanding that we had. She had found this special and secret way of sharing information on what it was to change into a woman.
(I have to add that I was extraordinarily torn up when I finally got my period and was not presented with a sanitary belt with clasps and the whole deal. I didn’t get that I was referencing the 1970 copy of the book and that the advent of adhesive had moved the world forward.)
Before reading that book I had snuck into my sister’s drawer and discovered her OB Tampons. In my innocence, proceeded to experiment with them. I lodged them one by one into the toilet and watched them expand into little cotton Zeppelins with tails. No wonder my sister couldn’t stand me. After reading Judy Blume’s Margaret, I was a young lady that had been let into the ceremonious enclave of womanhood. I didn’t know then and am only beginning to understand now, how that process only begins as a girl and never stops evolving.
I can’t thank Judy Blume enough for her ability to crawl right into the minds of young people and scratch the very simple truth of all those questions and uncertainties we have. The world seems so big then and we are all in such a rush to understand it. In retrospect, and now when I watch my daughter, I wish I could slow it all down.
My daughter is far from needing her sanitary belt, yet she has reminded me of what it means to be a daughter and a woman. She challenges me to view both her and myself with my own mother’s eyes. As my father said when I had her, “Now you know.”
One of the main thrusts of Are you There God? is Margaret’s struggle to understand God as a child of interfaith marriage. My daughter, too, has a Catholic-born mother and a Jewish father, just like the book. My own struggle to understand if God is out there I don’t have to have all the answers right now. In time they will come in handy when I need them.listening never seems to end. I wonder how I will even begin to handle these ideas with my child. I worked hard, and still do, to find that spiritual place within myself and resolve my conflict with my own faults and the worlds.
With this new knowledge of what it is to be a mother I have made a kind of peace. I don’t have to have all the answers right now. In time they will come in handy when I need them. I feel Margaret’s gratitude to God at the end of the book for being there whenever I look into my daughter’s eyes.
“Are you still there God? It’s me, Margaret. I
know you’re there God. I know you wouldn’t have missed this for anything!
Thank you God. Thanks an awful lot….”
I pray that I can find the right things to say to my daughter when the time comes.
Did you read any of Judy Blume’s novels as a girl? Which books were your favorites?