Mom’s birthday is today and as I do every year, I try to think about what to write for her.

Truth is, from her death in August of 2008 until now, I still don’t deal with the whole loss-of-mom-thing.

Pretty Mom, 1950s

Pretty Mom, 1950s

Who does?

Grief changes over time as we learn to live new lives without that person experiencing our days with us. We don’t get over the deaths of people we love because in their absence, everything changes.

Mary was such a pickle—especially for me, her contrarian daughter—to deal with. As adept as I can be at perceiving people, reading my mom was never easy. Just what went on in that brain so different from mine is still a cause for puzzled pondering.

If you think I’ve reached the point of romanticizing the sometimes adversarial relationship I shared with my mom, read this blog: Family Obligations – the Emotions that Make Us Who We Are. I recognize that we were both culpable in the odd dynamics we called mother-daughter kinship and remain thankful that we had an unparalleled closeness in the days leading up to her death.

With our opposite personalities, we managed to connect on one wonderful level.

We were book worms.

Tidying my office this morning makes me realize I must once again collect books to donate to the library. This reminds me of the most positive gift from mom: she gave me an unbridled love of reading.

Her love of books was passed on to all four children. We each read different genres, at different speeds, with different goals. But we read. Dad, great fellow that he was, was not a big reader. He’d pick up the occasional book (usually non-fiction), magazines, the Pennsylvania Game News, and he’d read everything I ever wrote.

But mom—she’d buzz through books like a beaver ripping through a stand of trees.

Mom read everything from historical romances to Lee Child—older sister and brother like Jack Reacher, but I don’t. We shared John Sandford and once she finally caved and read a Michael Connelly, she remained a Hieronymus Bosch fan for life.

Although she liked the occasional non-fiction tome, I never convinced her to read The Diary of Anne Frank, despite my assurances that the book is one celebrating the determination of human spirit set against terrible circumstances.

She taught us that books are precious commodities. 

Growing up we didn’t have a lot of extra money. Dad worked hard, had a good job, working on cars in his spare time to earn a bit more here and there. Our parents were frugal and focused in their spending—teaching us the skill of money management.

To mom, books were a critical part of life—as essential as food and water. We always had books from the school library and we selected books from the Scholastic brochure. When the truck was due to come to our school, we were each allowed to pick one book. Oh the agony! One book only! Oh the delight! A new book to read! Isn’t it wonderful that there are still Scholastic book clubs for parents to participate in with their kids?

I still have those cherished childhood books and yes, there are times I wistfully browse the titles like, Caps for Sale, I Can’t Said the Ant, and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. Then there is the one I read every so many years, Magic Elizabeth, by Norma Kassirer. It is such an imaginative book that it still tickles my fancy.

In the last few years, when I discovered Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels, I knew immediately that mom would love him and reached for the phone. Ah, such disappointment that I couldn’t share his brilliant writing with my mother.

Mom opened up worlds to her children by giving us her love of reading. For me, so contrastive from her, it was the one thing we could discuss over the years without argument, happily debating what would happen in the next book in a series.

That’s what I missed about my mom. I may not have been able to read her and discern what she was thinking, but we were able to share our love of the written word.

Now if only books picked up the scents of the reader … I would love to breathe the smells of my mom as I read the books she left.

**

For my mom’s birthday many years ago…

When my mother laughs,
her face folds itself into a smile;
teeth are revealed,
lips curve upward,
cheeks expand,
eyes crinkle at their edges.
The laugh emerges from deep inside her throat,
full of heartiness.
Sometimes, if the tale told is extreme,
tears flow down her face and
anyone in her company cannot help but find her contagious.
My mother’s laugh soothed many fears in my childhood
and reassures me that life is to be taken lightly in my adulthood.

**

Miss you, my little minx of a mother.

Grief changes over time as we learn to live new lives without that person experiencing our days with us. #grief Click To Tweet