“We read to know we are not alone.”–C.S. Lewis

If you ask me to describe my mom, one of the first things I would tell you is that she’s a reader. A voracious reader. She always has been. We were a family of readers with books everywhere, trips to the library and trips to the bookstore being especially magical because we could keep that book forever.

She’s always been a writer too. A fact she would dispute by the way, but she is a writer, and a wonderful one at that. I’ve said FOR YEARS that she should submit something or try to get published or even just write for her own enjoyment but she never did. But recently she submitted an essay to a magazine asking “What does reading mean to you?”

This is what she had to say:

I can see the library shelf in my mind even now. Biographies were on the bottom rack of the children’s section in the library in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on North Avenue near Lisbon. It was 1951 and I was nine almost ten. My mother had finally allowed me to walk the mile to the library by myself. She didn’t drive. I will never forget the thrill of that walk and discovering the joy of my life, reading.

The books in the biography series were all in orange covers and arranged alphabetically. Jane Adams was the first. She was an aware and influential woman who started the Chicago Community Center, Hull House. I LOVED the book, and years later became a social worker partly because of that book and her beliefs. At home my mother put all the books she thought were too “adult” for me on the top of our bookshelf. I got a stepstool and stretched carefully to get GONE WITH THE WIND down to read. She found out when I was about halfway through and reluctantly allowed me to finish it. Thanks, Mom. It was great. I saw “damn” in print even though I never heard it at home.

I loved reading from the moment I first learned about Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot. I was reprimanded for not coming to the dinner table on time, and would walk slowly while holding a book to my face. I was told I couldn’t read at the table so I would carefully place a bookmark to mark my page and eat quickly. I used to read late at night and my mother would invariably discover me under the covers with a flashlight so the light wouldn’t be seen from under my door. She was a kindred spirit as she would say, “Stop at the end of this chapter, Ellen”.

Through my wonderful book club which I have enjoyed for 25 years I have read all types and varieties of the written word I might not have chosen for myself, but am so glad that I have read. We call ourselves “Ladies of the Club” like the famous book by Helen Santmyer that took her 50 years to write. When we started in the late 1980’s we all had teenagers, and through the years we have shared our joys such as our children’s marriages and grandchildren, our hardships of personal illnesses and those of our spouses, and sorrow over the deaths of a spouse and one of our own dear members.

What I really know about reading is that it has sustained me, entertained me, lifted my soul, broadened me, and it has become my best friend. I plan books to take on vacation before buying a new outfit. I don’t even have to go on vacation…I can read about it and transport myself, quite the benefit in these economic times!

I commented on Meg’s blog (because she posted mom’s essay too) that my mom’s writing is so rich and warm, filled with fantastic details and a unique voice. If this essay isn’t enough to convince you, I’ve saved the majority of the emails she has sent me over the years as well as a TON of the letters sent to me in college. You’re welcome to come over and read them.

My mom rules and I’m grateful every day that she’s mine.

3 comments:

Claire | September 24, 2011 at 10:22 PM

I heart Ellen. Always have. How could you not? <3

Amy | September 26, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Your mama is one sweet, smart lady. That makes you one lucky daughter. Love the essay...love you!

Happy Habitat | October 1, 2011 at 9:28 PM

Definitely evokes a certain feeling and time. Simple, but meaningful. Keep it up! I'd read it...