My mother was not the kind of mom that made birthday cupcakes to celebrate my birthday at school. She would never have bought soda or juice, because she had read Adele Davis and Carlton Frederics and she knew that sugar was poison.
If you were over the age of three, my mother didn't hover over you as you played in the sandbox that my father had made for us, swung on the swings, or went down the slide. If you could finally swing very high on the swing and ran in to proudly tell her and get an approving audience, forget it. She'd occasionally check on us through the kitchen window but there is something that is needed to be known about my mom, she detested a hot or beating sun, she got prickly in any but the most benign spring sunshine, and she was scared to death of insects, especially bees. Watching kids, even her own kids swing on swings or dig in a sandbox bored her to death. She was the absolute antithesis of attachment parenting or the helicopter mom.
Before becoming a wife and mother in the 1960's, my mother had studied not just to be a nurse, but to be a registered nurse. My mother was a professional. Soon she went from being just a registered nurse to being a head nurse. She was responsible for supervising nurses and nurses aides, for taking a doctors order and supervising patient diets, giving out medicines. She interacted with highly educated people every day. House work and making meals, doing laundry and watching kids mould sand into tunnels or sand cakes just didn't measure up.
What she carried over from her former life was a love of books, a love she had since almost as soon as she learned to read. It was a family affair because her mother, my Meme loved reading also. The high spot of her day was after lunch, when all kids were taking a nap and she could read a book. It must have been a bittersweet time, connecting her too her youth, her single life and present all at one time.
And then, came my tenth Christmas, when the majority of my gifts were books. She scored 100 out of 100 with the books! I loved every one of them, and two of them I actually made part of my personal library as an adult, and I read them to my children at certain times during the year. My enthusiasm was all the encouragement that my mother needed. From then on, I was never without my own book, bought by my mother. No more having to depend on the library.
My mother's tastes were eclectic, never in a rut. Some times she would get me favorites from her youth like the Cherry Ames, Nurse series, other times it would be Five Little Peppers And How They Grew. A new Bobbsey Twin or Nancy Drew book from the series would be a gift for a birthday, then The Girl In White Armor. She got me to read a few books from the Mary Poppins series when I was sick, and sure I was too old to enjoy it. I was wrong, she was right, and the Mary Poppins series is in my personal collection now.
Even as a married adult, in the midst of taking care of littles myself, my mother supplied me with books like Evergreen and Light A Penny Candle. Later in life, when I was feeling a bit down and isolated because my husband had become an over the road trucker, a box of books, the Debbie Mac Comber Cedar Cove series, arrived on my doorstep. While I was in the hospital getting chemo for my cancer, the books Marley and Me showed up, followed by The Help. And then while recovering at home, The Distant Hours, a hefty book that I never would have looked at twice showed up at my home.
All the books bought comfort, my mother even as an elderly mother to a middle-aged woman was still watching out for me, trying to distract me and bring me comfort. All her choices were great.
I don't know how she does it. She doesn't belong to a book club. Instead, she goes into a book store and picks up books that look interesting, reads the cover, and if they still seem interesting, she buys them. And she doesn't just do it for me. She finds out what subjects my kids are interested in, and then buys books to match them, often challenging them with books that I think might be too old for them, and then the kids rise to the challenge. One example is The Girl From Limberlost, a huge book that my 12 year old daughter finished reading because she found it so interesting. I haven't attempted it yet.
My mom has aided making my children into the voracious readers and book lovers that they are. What an enduring legacy!