"Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother"
The first and last stories in Bluebeard's Egg reveal Atwood in an atypically mellow mood. "Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother" is a loving celebration of the narrator's (presumably Atwood's) mother and father and of an earlier, simpler time. Yet it is never sentimental because Atwood never loses her steely grip on reality. Looking at an old photograph of her mother and friends, the narrator is interested in the background . . . a world already hurtling towards ruin, unknown to them: the theory of relativity has been discovered, acid is accumulating at the roots of trees, the bull-frogs are doomed. But they smile with something that from this distance you could almost call gallantry, their right legs thrust forward in parody of a chorus line.
The "significant moments" of the title inevitably include some significant moments in the life of the narrator as well. Amusing discrepancies between mother's and daughter's versions of reality emerge, but not all are funny. For example, the narrator sees that her compulsive need to be solicitous toward men may be the result of early, "lethal" conditioning; her mother sees "merely cute" childhood behavior. The narrator recalls the shock she felt when her mother expressed a wish to be in some future incarnation an archaeologist--inconceivable that she could wish to be anything other than the narrator's mother. Yet when the narrator becomes a mother herself, she gains a new perspective and "this moment altered for me." What finally emerges between mother and narrator-daughter is not communication but growing estrangement. Recalling herself as a university student, she feels as though she has become as unfathomable to her mother as "a visitor from outer space, a time-traveler come back from the future, bearing news of a great disaster." There are distances too great for maternal love to cross. Atwood is too much of a realist to omit this fact.