Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day, Mom and thanks for the books.


Mom_fr_Sepia I hadn’t thought of doing anything for mothers day this year, after all my mom’s been gone for near fifteen years. I actually woke up this morning with writing on my mind. I had kind of a mini break through on my novel last night and made the first progress in a month or more. I was kind of proud of myself and thinking about that led me to thinking about books in general and that led me to my mom, Chloe Annette Morand (1937-1996). You see, she is directly responsible for my love of books and the written word.

She taught me to read at three, and I don’t mean “See Jack Run” but to read. I remember ‘Margery Morningstar’ at five, ‘Great American Poetry’ at seven or so, Solzhenitsyn by ten. I don’t much believe in ‘signs’ but her mother named her after a character in a book she was reading when my mother was born. I need to figure out what that book was. She created a monster. I read everything. Record covers, magazines, bumper stickers, ads on bench backs, text books, history books, fiction of every flavor, poetry, song lyrics, philosophy, science, religion, politics literally everything. My wife, when I was married,  used to get perplexed when we were in a restaurant or riding in the car or laying on the beach or at a party, and I’d get quiet, start staring off into space. She’d ask, “What are you doing.” and I’d inevitably say, “Trying to read that sign, or that tee-shirt that guy has on, or that bill board.”

My mother taught me to read by sounding out words, I guess they call that ‘Phonics’ now, but it was how I learned. She always gave me books for gifts on birthdays or Christmas. The last gift she gave me was Hemingway’s, ‘Finca Vigia Collection’ the summer before she died. When I was in school and started writing poetry, she encouraged me, when I started writing stories – usually baseball, she read them and critiqued them. She had written a story once, from her childhood, about a dog that rescued her and her crippled sister from a snake as mom and Ruby June, cowered in a little red wagon. It was published in Readers Digest in the mid to late 60’s and she was very proud of that.

We grew up poor, five children and a single mother. One Christmas, at probably twelve, all I had to give my mother for a Christmas Present, was a poem about how commercial Christmas had become. She gave that poem back to me on my thirtieth birthday when I was made a director of a data processing company. We never had much money, but we always had books. Stacks of books, home made book shelves of books, boxes of books. If you tripped over something in our house, 2 to 1 is was a book, not a piece of furniture. We moved a lot, house to house, state to state and I always hated carrying all those boxes of books.

When I started publishing my own poetry and short stories in magazines in my late twenties, she was so proud even though the output was sparse. After all, I had a ‘day job’ where I made a decent living. I’d write about whatever I felt like, and when I could find the time. I had a career, I had sports, I had a deep and abiding interest in girls. I had friends, and parties, and hiking, and camping and fishing and travelling, so I didn’t make much time to devote to writing then. Oh, I’d scribble down ideas, or rip off a quick poem. I’d fill notebooks with ideas, characters, rot. I’d do an article about a band I’d heard, or a restaurant I’d visited and I fill notebooks full of great passages from books I’d read and my own scribbles but I never did much with them. I’d tell myself, when I retire, I’ll write. If I win the lottery, I’ll write. If I get a patent on this electronic gadget or circuit, I’ll write.

Then, nearly three years ago I was visited by an auto immune disease, and it effected my eyes, amongst other things.  I discovered there wasn’t much demand for blind engineers. I mourned that for awhile, then I thought, well, now you can write. Reinvent yourself as a writer. Fifteen  years after her death, my mother is still saving me. Still encouraging me. Still making me feel worth while. Happy Mothers Days mom. Thanks for the words and thanks for teaching me how to read.


The Dirty Lowdown


  1. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing, Robert!

    Peace and Blessings!
    LaTrecia J.

  2. Thank you, LaTrecia. She was a special lady.

  3. That's a nice piece. Heartwarming that the memory of your mum could move you to such thoughts.

  4. Thanks Pete, she was just a farm girl from Kansas, but she loved books and passed that on to me.

  5. Nobody ought to say that anybody was "just" anything!

  6. True that. She managed to end up with two sons who got post grad degrees on a waitresses salary, and that is certainly not just any meager accomplishment.

  7. I enjoyed this. Having known her, I could visualize everything you wrote. She wrote me some epic letters and always had two cents to add to every situation. I enjoyed your Mother. I remember once , Chris and I had broken up and it had been a while. She called me and told me she was taking me out to lunch, McDonalds of course ( lol ) but she really just wanted to talk about how I was doing. I was 18 and living alone and she cared enough to do that. She was a pretty amazing lady. I never got tired of her stories and the way she told them.