As inadequately nurtured as I may have been as a child, my mother DID manage to influence me in one hugely positive way. She gave me a love of books. She gave me a passion for reading—a romance with story that has marked my life in dramatic ways.
I realized this after retrieving Christmas decorations from the attic and coming across a box of children’s books I hadn’t looked at in ages. In reviewing the contents of that box, I rediscovered some of the books that most influenced my early childhood and impacted the person I’ve later become.
The fact of the matter is this. When I was born in 1962, my mother had the education of children very much on her mind. Having graduated from college in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, my mother had her career teaching kindergarten interrupted by her marriage to my father in 1961 and my birth in 1962. However, when, in 1964, my mother read Glenn Doman’s book How to Teach your Baby to Read, she transformed her desire to educate into a determination that would teach me to read. (Or at least she tried.)
My mother did exactly as Doman suggested, making massive flashcards and hanging them like signs on items all over the house—towel, table, television, toy box—all signage appropriately placed. This was a radical idea in 1964—the notion that babies could be taught to read—and my mother told me that people thought she was crazy for trying.
More mainstream but equally bonding was her reading to me—especially before my afternoon naps. One of my favorite books was “Dr. Goat”—a story about reciprocity and kindness—most of which I can still recite my heart. Dr. Goat helps those in his community who are sick, and they, in turn take care of him when he becomes ill.
So it comes as no surprise, since the earliest (and one of the few) bonding experiences I had with my mother occurred over books and the experience of reading, that I might grow up to pursue the writing of books myself and the teaching of writing to others—that I would, as an adult, become a voracious reader and lover of everything related to the making of stories.
I doubt that this is exactly what my mother had in mind when she tried teaching me to read. However, the desire to write and a love of reading have both been with me for decades. I can’t imagine my life without either of these.
Words make meaning, and stories explain the world to us. Words tell us who we are and allow us to see ourselves in new and remarkable ways, while stories comfort and challenge us to be more, to be better, brighter, more thoughtful in our pursuit of kindness and more careful in our regard for others.
My mother may not always have nurtured me as I needed to be nurtured, but she instilled in me a passion for books that I hope will one day nurture others. If I can somehow tell my story well enough, sharing it via blog or book, if I can promote it with sufficient enthusiasm, perhaps, redemption will be possible and mothering will be mine.
Dr. Goat reminded me as a child and again the other day the role reciprocity has in creating a sense of community—how vital it is to what Dr. Goat was really all about—the pursuit of healing and wholeness.
It makes sense then that the writing of my memoir would participate in this reciprocity—taking the negative words that I was sometimes given as a child and turning them into something good, something that can heal, something that can promote community. It’s a process we can all participate in. Giving and getting, helping and being helped—a redemptive whole that heals.
Thanks to all of my readers for participating in this redemption during the past year, this sharing of words. It’s this exchange of kindness and good will—these posts and comments—that make the blogosphere the healing place it has been for me. May your year to come be blessed with more of same—the same love, the same light, the same redemptive story.
Note: If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family. This post is part of that story. To read “Kids Make the Best Bookies,” click here. If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at email@example.com or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.