As children do, I have not given my mother enough credit. Before you start chasing me with pitchforks, let me clarify. I have given my mother credit for many things: her unconditional hospitality, her unending generosity, her unbreakable strength, her unreserved friendliness, just to name a few. But in all these long years, I have never given her credit for helping me become the reader I am today. Today seems like the perfect time to do just that.
Because my mom and I read very different styles of books, it has taken me entirely too long to realize what an avid reader my mother is. Sometime during the last few years (likely coinciding with the birth of my first child, when daughters universally become more appreciative and aware of their own mothers), I began to recognize the signs of a true book lover in my own mom. She reads. A lot. She gives books as gifts for any occasion: graduation – you get a book, wedding – you get a book, breathing – you get a book! She gives books as gifts so much that this year she bought each of her children a book and said she wanted our Mother’s Day present to her to be reading the book. My mom has surrounded me, and now my children, with books.
But more importantly, she read to me. At this point, my mother is laughing so hard she’s crying. Because for literal years I begged her not to read to me. I would close my door, put on my Walkman headphones (yep, I’m that old), yell, and pull all manner of shenanigans to avoid being read out loud to. But she was unrelenting, in the very best way. Anytime we were driving, it was a well established fact that out loud reading would be involved. Mobile electronic devices were the stuff of science fiction in those times, as were in-vehicle DVD players (or DVD’s at all for that matter), and individualized music listening was not an option. And so it was that we heard the majority of the Chronicles of Narnia on one mechanically challenged road trip, or almost ran out of gas in the middle of the night listening to the Count of Monte Cristo, or listened to the tales and trails of Naya Nuki while traveling through the Pacific Northwest.
And I am grateful.
It seems important to mention that she comes by this love of books naturally. Her mother was, what I unbiasedly consider, a literary genius. My grandmother was very rarely without a book within arms reach. She had the most enviable collection of books and had read them all. She could recite poems in their entirety without a second thought. She would find a way to reference or quote a book or poem in almost every conversation I ever had with her. And, again, she read to me. I remember, very clearly, her visiting us when I was in 5th grade. Every night before I went to sleep, she would pull up a chair next to my bed and read A Wrinkle in Time to me.
And I am grateful.
So to all you mothers out there reading to your own children and surrounding them with books. I see you.
I see you exhausted mothers of tiny babies trying to keep your eyes open through The Going To Bed Book.
I see you worn out mothers of toddlers reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See for the 8,000th time to the whirlwind swirling around you.
I see you patient mothers of preschoolers reading Green Eggs and Ham, all the while being interrupted by random shouts of word recognition.
I see you mothers of elementary school age children scouring the library bookshelves for *the book* that your child cannot wait to read on their own, and still finding ways to read Charlotte’s Web out loud to them.
I see you middle grade mothers trying to keep one step ahead of your child’s reading so you can discuss the triumphs, the failures, the misery, and the joy of this stage with them through the characters you read about together.
I see you mothers of teenagers setting your children free to discover their own literary preferences, even if those preferences greatly diverge from your own, while continually reminding them that they have not out grown being read aloud to.
I see you mothers of college age “children” sending care packages always guaranteed to include at least one book to your child so far away.
I see you mothers as you become grandmothers gathering those precious little ones in your lap and starting all over again.
To you, mothers who read, we are grateful.