The Divine Secrets of Vivi Abbott Walker’s Heart
Love is a complex emotion. It has the ability to make you feel like you are flying, literally touching and seeing heaven. Yet it also has the ability to break your heart into a thousand pieces, hurt you in ways you never could have dreamed possible, make you feel all at once like you are living a nightmare and dying at the same time. Love can be wondrous when given freely and unconditionally, or it can be dangerous when wielded as a weapon. There is no love more multifaceted then that of a parent and child. The relationship between Vivi and Sidda personifies both ends of the love spectrum, oftentimes, to the extreme. Through Rebecca Wells’s “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” we are able to see Vivi’s beautiful, life giving love of Sidda, as well as the ease with which she brandishes her manipulation of the most painful aspects of love. Through Sidda we witness a child’s desperate need for approval, an unending desire to please and placate a mother who is both emotionally absent, and emotionally smothering, sometimes in the same breath. The “Divine Secrets” is a psychologically draining journey of a daughter’s quest to understanding the secrets to her mothers love. From a young age, Sidda learned to read her mother’s moods. “Sidda learned to stay on the ball, she learned to walk the tightrope. She perfected the ability to walk into a room and instantly divine each person’s mood, need, desire. She developed the capacity to take the temperature of a scene, character, a conversation, a single gesture, and to gauge just what was needed and when and how much” (81). Vivi’s ever changing temper created the ability in Sidda to judge with a glance what she could expect from her mother. “What created the paradox of Vivi full of light, Vivi full of dark? For every scene of magic, there were an equal number of terrifying cocktail hours when Vivi’s bourbon and branch water took her far away from her children, although she might never leave the house” (81). On particularly bad days, Sidda would sit sentry outside her mother’s bedroom door, waiting for any sound that might indicate Vivi’s return to her daughter’s world. Sometimes, she did this “for weeks; she considered it her job” (131). There is strong evidence of several such insistences of role reversal on Sidda’s behalf throughout the “Divine Secrets.” In her desperation for her mother’s love and approval, Sidda oftentimes takes on the role of caregiver for, or in place of her mother. “You’re my big girl Sidda. You’re my oldest. You have to help me take care of the little ones, you promise?” (273). Through Sidda’s flashbacks, in conjunction with her present day thoughts and feelings, it is easy to see that no matter her age, a great deal of her being is defined by her mother’s love and attention. “Some days I worshipped at her feet. Some days I would have split her wide open just to get the attention she gave the Ya-Yas. Some days I was so jealous I wished Caro, Teensy, and Necie dead” (42). Even as an adult, Sidda seems consumed by her mother. “ Here in this cabin, twenty-five hundred miles from Louisiana, and many years from my girlhood, if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can smell my mother and the Ya-Yas“ (42). “Once a scent caught me on the street in Greenwich Village. I stopped in my tracks and looked around. The smell made me cry. I stood on the sidewalk feeling suddenly young and terribly open, as if I were waiting for something. I live in an ocean of smell, and that ocean is my mother” (43). Even success came with a price. “I thought my mother was a star for so many years that when I found out she wasn’t, I was stupefied…Somewhere guilt developed whenever I seemed to eclipse Mama…because I never trusted that I could shine without obliterating her” (33). Sidda’s childhood, and more than likely her entire adult life, was led, part in parcel, for Vivi’s approval....
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