Monday, May 10, 2010

Things I should have told my mom

I have to hand it to Mama. She didn’t quite know what to make of me, but she never discouraged me in my writing unless she was trying to get me to work around the house. Which, as a mom myself now, I completely and totally understand.

I was a funny little kid, one that I’m sure exasperated Mama to no end. The things that she taught me in order to entertain myself turned out to be the very things that she had to overcome later.

No good deed, I guess, goes unpunished.

She’d learned a bunch with The Sister – the first born that she toted on her hip to hang out diapers on the line when it was so cold the diapers froze stiff. Mama taught me to read, most likely, out of sheer desperation for a little peace of mind, that and the fact that she loved to read herself.

I entertained myself, all right. Mama would be turning the house upside down, out of her head with worry when I’d gone MIA. She’d find me lurking in a dark corner, curled up with a book, oblivious to the world around me.

With Mama, you learned early not to utter the words, “I’m bored.” They were an invitation to be put to work. It was as good as plastering a huge sign on yourself proclaiming, “I have nothing to do and am at your beck and call.”

Nope, not me. When I had read every book in the house, I learned how to entertain myself all over again. I put on little one-man plays. I read the dictionary again. I researched Greek and Roman mythology. I researched English royalty. I taught myself to play chess. I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Again, I never thanked Mama for not absolutely forbidding me to fill up every single sheet of college rule loose-leaf notebook paper she ever bought me. She carped about it, mind you, and talked about how I never seemed to save paper for class work, but she never “grounded me” from writing. I guess she figured out that telling me not to write was like telling her not to “project.” It was just in us. She worked in lumber and sawdust and nails, and my medium of choice involved words and paper and ink.

I can look back now, with my grown up mother-that-I-am eyes and see that she was at once befuddled with me, a me so different than she was, and proud of me. I know that because I feel the same way about The Kiddo.

The Kiddo loves to write, but reading? It has to be gripping and funny to suck her in and not let her go. For someone like me, someone who can’t resist the print off a milk carton, that blows my mind.

Math and athletics and writing, now, that’s what lights The Kiddo up. I never had much confidence in my math skills, and I was cursed with two left feet. I never could do a cartwheel, but The Kiddo can contort her body in a pretzel without breaking a sweat.

I hope I can follow Mama’s model when it comes to celebrating the difference I find in my unexpected daughter. I hope as The Kiddo grows older, and by necessity more and more into her own individual person, that I can remember the time Mama gave me my most favorite Christmas present: a 500-sheet pack of loose-leaf notebook paper and a package of blue PaperMate pens. Yep, whatever I am today, it is in large part due to the mother that she was.

Somewhere in heaven, Mama’s nodding and laughing and saying, “Uh-huh, I told you so. I told you that you’d wise up and figure that out some day.”


Doris Plaster said...

aww...what a beautiful post. Now that my mother is in heaven I started to think more of the wonderful things she did and how great she was. Thanks for sharing this great post.

Piedmont Writer said...

I couldn't wait to go back to school so I could get a pack of that paper and new pens.

Monster Baby is on the verge of learning to read by herself right now and I'm praying she loves it as much as I did. I keep telling her it will take her places she never imagined but she just thinks that's Disneyland. LOL

out of the wordwork said...

Lovely post, Cynthia. It's amazing how, when I look back, I can see how wonderful in many ways my mom was but when I was a kid it seems like most of the interactions were about what I wasn't doing (e.g. the dishes, the laundry, the vacuuming...) If we're blessed enough to have our mothers until adulthood and by having our own children it's the universe's way of trying to make it up to them by saying: "Ah, now I understand, Mom."

Toby Speed said...

Paper and pens are so much the best present. We, too, were brought up not to say, "I'm bored." My mom still shakes her head at folks who insist they are bored. Cultivating interests, exploring one's gifts, are the keys to a satisfying and rich life.

Good post today, Cynthia. Thanks.

Mia said...

What a beautiful post, Cynthia :) Growing up, I learned to not say 'I'm bored' or 'there's nothing to do' unless I wanted to get stuck with some dreaded chore ;)

I'm thankful my mom did (and still does!) encourage me in my writing. I didn't develop a love for writing until my preteens/early teens, but she taught me to read and how to escape into a literary world. I think her teaching me how wonderful books are is what inspired me to write my own! :)

Lydia Kang said...

What a wonderful post. If only I'd said thank you more as a kid, not knowing how unselfish she was and how giving! I told her Happy Mother's Day yesterday but I think I need to tell her again how special she's been. Thanks for the reminder.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You have a real way of bringing us back to our own childhood while describing your own -- and your own experience of mothering.

Have a beautiful week, Roland

Tawna Fenske said...

What a lovely post! Pretty sure your mom is looking down feeling pretty proud of all you've accomplished (and maybe spitting on one or two people she didn't like).


Linda G. said...

Awww. So sweet. You're doing your mama proud. :)

Know what? I STILL love to get paper and pens as gifts. And I can prowl office supply stores for hours, just ogling the merchandise.

Cynthia Reese said...

Thanks, Doris. I never understood the vast empty ache a person could have once they lost a parent -- I thought I did, but I truly didn't, not until my mom passed away.

Anne, I know that feeling -- I can't imagine having a kid who wasn't a reader/writer! Good luck!

Nelsa, my mom always smiled whenever we annoyed her and said, "I hope you have one just like you and one just like your sister." Yanno, The Kiddo is a combo of both me and The Sister. ;-)

Toby, I still get a thrill out of fountain pens! And paper! And the school supply section ... I know, I'm a nut!

Mia, what a wonderful mom you have! Yes, I think it was definitely my love of reading that fueled my love of writing.

Lydia, hug that mama! I can't say this in any way that doesn't sound guilt-inducing or know-it-all, but you will not regret a single hug you or thank you that you give her.

Thanks, Roland ... but I've found you do a phenomenal job of writing, too!

Tawna, *snort* I can sure name a few she'd like to pelt with peanuts from her vantage point! (And sometimes I'd be at the top of that list!)

Linda -- one word: Levenger's. Ah, bliss. The grown-up school supply section!

Misty said...

I love your mama. We got good mamas, you and me.
My own did the same- she gave me my all time favorite xmas gift one year: an enormous box of classics. (Fell in love with Steinbeck then.) She listened to every stupid line I wrote. She bought me writing supplies and to this day there just isn't anything like ripping open a new pack of paper.
Here's to our mamas, Cynthia, good mamas that did the job right.

Paul C said...

Yes, there are echoes there of my own mother, including the disdain for the 'b' word. An endearing portrait.

Lickety Splitter said...

Gotta love the mamas!

Shannon said...

Love this post! What a beautiful sentiment. Thanks so much for sharing it with me (us). :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

So sweet - and I'm sure she is chuckling a little too. :)

I think having an unexpected child (in the sense of their demeanor, not their arrival) is an incredible blessing. They stretch you and challenge you (and not just your patience) to see the value in other ways of doing and thinking.

Happy belated Mother's Day!

Chris said...

There's something magical about watching your children grow and develop. They're so full of surprises! An adopted child is especially intriguing--I'm constantly wondering how much we influence our daughter's likes and dislikes, and how much she inherited from her birth parents.

Either way, I'll be hovering, paper and pens at the ready, if she ever gets bitten by writing bug! Thanks for your lovely post.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother! =) Cathy Pace