My mom used to read 3-4 books a week, ranging from international politics to psychology to the latest best-selling fiction. There were hundreds of books (of varying degrees of “overdue-ness”), newspapers and catalogs scattered under and around my parents’ bed. I can hear my dad’s voice now as he swore up a storm after tripping or slipping on them. I can see my mom now in their bed, covers tucked up around her, buried in a novel with her glasses perched on the end of her nose, brow furrowed in concentration, somehow able to completely tune out the blaring television playing the theme from “Barney Miller” and my dad’s litany of swearwords. That bed was like an island to which she loved to retreat, along with a coffee mug of “something special”.
You could ask my mom about ANY topic and she would be able to fill you in on some amazing things. It could be the history of the conflict in the middle east or the best way to make a Béchamel sauce. When I was little I used to hide under her bed and see the cracked, dry skin on her heels dangling over the side of the bed, hear the “schwwwwip” of a page turning, and the clumsy clunk of the coffee mug back down on the nightstand.
My favorite thing in the world was to go to the library with my mom. I can remember us walking into the downtown public library when I was little, my mom in her Mexican poncho, over-sized bag, over-sized bag Jackie-O sunglasses and over-grown hair, walking quickly, right arm pumping, while I buzzed around her like a cricket. We would spend several hours there marveling over the wonderful INFORMATION available… for two insatiable minds that had a reality they needed desperately to escape, each book was a possibility to live someone else’s life for a few hours.
If I couldn’t make it on a library trip, my mom would bring plenty back for me. I would hear the door slam downstairs and a shout: “yoo-hoo!” announcing the bounty she had brought back for me. I would take the needle off of whichever Beatles record I was listening to… fly down, 3 stairs at a time and maul the pile of books. my mom would get the standard Judy Blume or Lois Duncan or Walter Farley books I so loved as a kid, but she would add other interesting books, like a book about Charles Manson. That’s right. Charles Manson. I love that by the time she had her 3rd kid in 22 years, she either trusted me to deal with gritty material or just didn’t give a shit anymore about parenting. I love that she didn’t censor what I read and thought I could handle anything intellectually. I love that she passed on to me the joy that comes with a new and wonderful book…a joy that makes you turn down dinner invitations to stay wrapped in a blanket all weekend, a joy that puts tears on pages, a joy that makes it feel as if your brain literally expanded two sizes.