My mother told me that I started reading at a very young age. I was the youngest kid at the time (before my younger sister was born many years later). Mum and I spent a lot of time together at home while my older siblings were at school. I was always envious of them. They seemed to have much more freedom than I did.
It seemed like I was always glued to my mother’s hip. I’ve always been a bit of a loner. So, I don’t think it was really me who needed to be close to her. Maybe it was her – that needed to be close to me. Now that thought is going to keep me up late tonight.
A few years ago, just before she died, she surprised me with this story. It was the first I had heard it. We had spent the week together. I was her primary care giver for that week and we had a lovely time together. That’s how I spent my summer vacation that year. Getting to know my mum in the little time she had left.
“You started reading when you were very little,” she told me.
I looked up at her in surprise.
“I was sitting here – remember, in the old green chair. You were lying on the floor playing with your toys,” she said.
“How old was I?” I asked her curiously.
“You were just three! I couldn’t believe it. But there you were, lying on the floor reading the newspaper headlines to me,” she said.
“Really? That’s kind of funny,” I replied.
“Well, the funny part – is you were reading them upside down!” she exclaimed. “I knew then you were special. You were such a bright and funny little girl.”
“Tell me more stories, mum,” I asked her.
“Well, you loved to sing. You were pretty good at it too until the other kids made fun of you,” she said thoughtfully. “I always thought it was a shame that you stopped.”
I stopped and pondered that one without saying anything.
“You loved art. You liked to draw and paint things,” she added.
I nodded. “That makes sense,” I said – I have a bit of the artist bug. I think I get that from mum.
“You were always kind of a loner. You were good at finding ways to amuse yourself,” she said.
I thought a lot about that too.
As a teen, I spent most of my nights in my room, lying on my bed drinking soda pop and eating popcorn while reading books. I was an eighties child – having briefly survived the end of the seventies. (That’s my way of saying I’m old.)
I read everything I could get my hands on. By age eleven, I had read most of the Stephen King books for that time. Even made it through the 700 page book, It – twice. I even did a book report on it in junior high. That made all the kids wonder about me too.
Authors like R.L. Stine and John Grisham filled my bookshelves. I was really into L.J. Smith for a while there too. Not The Vampire Diaries series. That came much later. But she had written a few series back in the nineties that I adored reading.
Judy Blume was another house hold favorite. So was Gordon Korman, Judith Krantz, Danielle Steel and I hate to admit it – but Francine Pascal who wrote the Sweet Valley High series was one of my favorites.
Mum loved to read as well. We’d spend many days shopping together. I remember special trips downtown to visit Audrey’s Bookstore in Edmonton. She loved that I was into reading. She would give me $5 every week so I could buy the latest book in the Sweet Valley High series. I almost managed to collect the whole series. At least until it got beyond ridiculous in the college years.
I have so many fond memories of spending a Friday night at the library as a teenager. I would carry home stacks of books only. It was a weekly ritual. I loved reading.
My mum once thought that I had a “issues” and threatened to send me to a psychologist. She was ecstatic that I was reading – but she didn’t think it was normal for someone to read as much as I did. Sometimes I would go through two paperbacks in one night. Sleep often got sacrificed. Which is why I suffer from chronic insomnia to this day.
“I’m going to send you to a psychologist,” she said to me one day after junior high school.
“Why?” I said to her.
“It’s not normal. You should be out there playing and doing things with your sisters,” she said.
I shrugged at her. “Sorry mum, I just don’t have anything in common with them,” I said.
We had the same battle over and over again for years. And when I finally turned seventeen and started partying with older friends – suddenly I had “too much” free time on my hands.
Typical right? Some times, it seemed like no matter what I did back then – it was the wrong thing.
But in the end, I think doing all that reading is what led me to the path of being a writer today. I have a wildly over-active imagination. Vivid dreams give me ideas for new stories all the time.
My mum was a writer. She wanted to write a book before she died. My regret in life is not taking her request more seriously. I sincerely wish that I had spent more time with her asking her questions.
If that’s one bit of advice I can offer to young girls – spend more time getting to know your mother. Ask those questions you’re dying to know. Ask about her childhood and her upbringing.
Ask her about the books she read as a kid. Or the games she used to play. Or what kind of boys (or girls) she liked. Ask her about the clothes she wore. Or the friends she had when she was your age. Find out as much as you can and write it down. Or better yet – we have technology now. Record her often.
I’m grateful to have spent that week with my mother before she died. She lived on for a couple of years after that but conversation with her was difficult towards the end. The dementia had kicked in and her memory had started to fade.
This post is to honour my mother. I miss her so much. And she is a big part of the reason I’m here – sharing my stories with you.