Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

I was going to write about something entirely different for this month’s blog but when I typed the first line on Sunday morning, out came, Thanks, Mom.

Yesterday, of course, was Mother’s Day.  At this point in my and my family’s life, I am the mother who is celebrated with gorgeous flowers, chocolate (two of my great pleasures) and, if I feel like it, an extracted promise to do some odious chore.

My mom died in 2006, so she isn’t here to be included in gift giving. Or phone calls, although we affectionately and impulsively tucked her favorite, well-used red princess phone into her casket.  She was a wonderful mom for many reasons.  Given I.N.K.'s focus, I'd like to celebrate how she helped me become a writer just by being who she was.

We always had books in the house.  We were always read to.  

I had a lot of nightmares when I was a kid.  So I slept with my door open and the hall light on, which threw a swatch of light into my bedroom that was perfect for sneak reading.  Let’s just say, I took advantage of it.  I think my mom knew.  She never said a word, doubtlessly realizing that forbidden fruit is always more delicious.

Once I had a pajama party, maybe in fourth grade, and late into the night when we went into the kitchen for snacks, we found it had been invaded by a stream of ants.  Our squeals brought Mom downstairs.  I frankly can’t remember if she dealt with the ants first—or, not at all.  All I can see is the picture of my mom standing in the kitchen in her nightgown, reading The World Book entry about ants to a bunch of girls waiting for their Swanson’s chicken pot pies to come out of the oven.  She always liked to look up things.

When she could afford it, she bought us/her an Encyclopedia Britannica.

A year or two later, I was enthralled by reading Gone with the Wind.  I got in trouble when my teacher found that I was using my textbook as a shield to camouflage my open copy.  When Mom found out, she laughed.  But her favorite GWTW story was when I burst into my parents’ bedroom a few nights later, waking her up with the tearful accusation, “You didn’t tell me it was going to end like that.”

Fast forward--about two years after I got a master’s degree in psychology that my parents paid for, tried it out and realized the job wasn’t for me, I decided to become a writer.  Somewhat arbitrarily.  Then it was what Mom didn’t say that was important.  She didn’t say, you have never shown much interest in writing before or how will you make money or is this practical.

And when my first article came out in the Sunday edition of the Boston Herald American, she called the paper to get a dozen copies sent to her in Detroit. She wanted originals, not xeroxes. When my first book came out, she just might have put me in the royalty plus column all by herself.

Thanks, Mom.


Jim Murphy said...

What a lovely and loving tribute, Susan. I have a feeling that a lot of us writers have been influenced by our Mom's to follow our dreams, even when those dreams seemed impossible.

Anonymous said...

Susan. this is such a touching post. Parents have such power to shape us. One of my fondest memories is from high school. My parents, despite many moves, had shelves of books: Shakespeare, Flaubert, Pushkin and more. I remember treating the bookshelves like my own personal lending library. I think it's the reason I've never gotten rid of a single book. I want my kids to have that same experience some day.

matt jacob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matt jacob said...

Gotta say, this is a wonderful and loving post. And oh so true!

Deborah Heiligman said...

Oh this is lovely. My favorite image is your mom reading aloud from the World Book to a group of girls in the kitchen late at night. Thanks for sharing your mom with us!

CEPlatt said...

How beautiful, Susan--and what a perfect tribute to your mother.

Susan E. Goodman said...

Thanks so much Jim, Kirsten, Matt and Deborah. When I started writing this, these memories just started flashing. Until then, I hadn't really thought of them as a whole,and the power they had to influence and shape me. And Deb--I remember at the time, I was pretty embarrassed about my mom reading there, it seemed too weird. Of course, now I realize both her doing it and her lack of self-consciousness was what was so wonderful about her doing it and about her.

Susan E. Goodman said...

Oops, while I was responding to what I thought were all the comments, another one came in. Cynthia, that you? Thanks so much for weighing in.

L.Robinson said...

Love these tales, Susan. It's a truly wise mother that allows a child "safe" forbidden fruit! :)

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Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

They say a reader is born in a parent's lap...certainly your story seems to bear this out for a writer as well Susan!

I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Lesley Picture Book seminar in June!

- Cathy