The Sunday Salon: The Reading Mother

My mother has many wonderful attributes and abilities: She is kind and caring, generous and considerate. She is a marvelous cook, has an elegant eye for fashion and interior design, and can grow any flowering plant. She is all these things and more. 

But one thing my mother is not is a reader. 

Oh, she reads the newspaper, which she continues to subscribe to mostly in order to read Mitch Albom’s weekly column. “Did you read Mitch today?” she’ll ask on Sundays.  “He really tells it like it is.” And she always enjoys her Southern Living magazine. She loves to thumb through cookbooks, sussing out new recipes to try. She once enjoyed fashion magazines, but says the styles are “too far out” these days to be of any interest to her.

But I’ve never seen her read a book. 

That is not until I gave her a copy of mine. 

You see, it came as a total surprise to her that I had even written a book in the first place. I think she knew I wrote things on the internet, but her understanding of the internet is similar to that of many octogenarians - sparse to nonexistent. 

When she unwrapped her copy of  Life In General last Christmas, she was confused at first. Then she saw my name at the bottom and looked at me with a mixture of disbelief and - I have to say - a little awe.

“Did YOU write this?” she asked.

“I did,” I answered, trying to retain my humility. After all, we never completely lose the desire to impress our mothers.

There was a suitable amount of ooohing and aaahing, some tears at the inscription I had written on the flyleaf, and some lengthy explaining on my part about how the book came to be. When I left later that day, she was still holding it on her lap, unwilling to part with it for a second.

The next day she told me she had read the entire book that night. “And I’m going to turn around and read it all over again,” she said. “It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve every read in my life."

Well, of course. She’s my mother. She thinks everything I write - from the gobbledygook typing on that first old typewriter I played with to my high school term papers - is the best thing she’s ever read. (And remember, she doesn’t read much.)

But then she said something that I would hear from a lot of readers in the days and weeks ahead. “I think every woman who has had a family, or a home, or been married, or gone through losing parents could relate to this book. I feel like you connect with all the things I’ve thought about and felt over the years."

Every year when Mother’s Day approaches, I realize once again how fortunate I am that  (1) my mother is still with me and still functioning independently; and (2) she has been so supportive of me and my family every step of the way as I’ve gone through all the experiences of Life In General. Although I’m not nearly the cook she is, nor is my thumb anywhere close to being as green, I hope I’ve inherited at least some of her ability to love unconditionally, to listen without judgment, and to give of her time, energy, and love without measure.

In the end, it didn’t matter that my mother wasn’t much of a reader. She completely supported my obsession with books, making sure I always had plenty of them around, getting me to the library whenever I wanted to go, and always encouraging me to read widely and often. She nourished my love for reading just as she did my love of music and dogs and cars and pretty dresses. 

Since December, Life In General has had pride of place on the coffee table in my mom’s living room. She says she picks it up and reads from it every so often. “Sometimes I laugh,” she commented, “and sometimes I cry.” It has prompted her to share many stories of her own with me, stories I’d never heard before about her life as a young wife and mother.

“Did you know,” she said the other day, “when I was young I used to like making up stories. I’d tell them to all the cousins, and they loved to hear them."

Well then. That explains a lot.


A Mother’s Day Offer

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Perhaps your mother (or grandmother, or daughter, sister, aunt or friend!) would enjoy reading Life In General too. In honor of Mother’s Day, if you purchase a copy of Life In General, I will beautifully gift wrap it, sign or inscribe it, and mail it to anywhere in the United States.

I will also donate 25% of all Mother’s Day book sales to Church World Service Blanket Sunday, which my own church supports each year on Mother’s Day. Donations are used to provide blankets, tents, food, and shelter to those affected by disasters worldwide. Read more about the project here.

To order a book as a Mother’s Day gift, use the order form on the Life In General page. In the notes section, indicate if you would like a special inscription inside the book, and where you wish the book to be sent. Books must be ordered by May 5, 2015.