Vogue has an exclusive excerpt from Hillary Clinton's brand new memoir, Hard Choices, which offers a glimpse into the former Secretary of State's relationship with her late mother.
Mom's own childhood was marked by trauma and abandonment. In Chicago her parents fought frequently and divorced when she and her sister were young. Neither parent was willing to care for the kids, so they were put on a train to California to live with their paternal grandparents in Alhambra, a town near the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles. The elderly couple was severe and unloving. One Halloween, after Mom was caught trick-or-treating with school friends, a forbidden activity, she was confined to her room for an entire year, except for the hours she was in school. She wasn't allowed to eat at the kitchen table or play in the yard. By the time Mom turned fourteen, she could no longer bear life in her grandmother's house. She moved out and found work as a housekeeper and nanny for a kindhearted woman in San Gabriel who offered room and board plus $3 a week and urged her to attend high school. For the first time she saw how loving parents care for their children—it was a revelation.
After graduating from high school Mom moved back to Chicago in the hopes of reconnecting with her own mother. Sadly she was spurned yet again. Heartbroken, she spent the next five years working as a secretary before she met and married my father, Hugh Rodham. She built a new life as a homemaker, spending her days lavishing love on me and my two younger brothers.When I got old enough to understand all this, I asked my mother how she survived abuse and abandonment without becoming embittered and emotionally stunted. How did she emerge from this lonely early life as such a loving and levelheaded woman? I'll never forget how she replied. "At critical points in my life somebody showed me kindness," she said.
Clinton writes candidly about her mother's death and the memorial service she held for her:
When I lost my father in 1993, it felt too soon, and I was consumed with sadness for all the things he would not live to see and do. This was different. Mom lived a long and full life. This time I wept not for what she would miss but for how much I would miss her. I spent the next few days going through her things at home, paging through a book, staring at an old photograph, caressing a piece of beloved jewelry. I found myself sitting next to her empty chair in the breakfast nook and wishing more than anything that I could have one more conversation, one more hug. We held a small memorial service at the house with close family and friends. We asked Reverend Bill Shillady, who married Chelsea and Marc, to officiate. Chelsea spoke movingly, as did many of Mom's friends and our family. I read a few lines from the poet Mary Oliver, whose work Mom and I both adored.Standing there with Bill and Chelsea by my side, I tried to say a final goodbye. I remembered a piece of wisdom that an older friend of mine shared in her later years that perfectly captured how my mother lived her life and how I hoped to live mine: "I have loved and been loved; all the rest is background music."
Read the full excerpt at Vogue.com. The book is set to be released on June 10.
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