This week we are talking about our moms and my mom loved to read. Loved isn’t the right word. Lived. My mom lived to read. One of the last things she stopped doing a few weeks before she died was read. She quit eating before she quit reading.
My mom was very poor when she was young so owning books, especially hardbacks, was a huge luxury in her mind. We had shelves full of them in every room. There were also hundreds of paperbacks in the linen closet. I, like all kids with weird parents (which is everyone), thought this was normal. The towels were in the bathroom cabinets and everyone kept their spare set of bedsheets in their bedroom closet because the linen closet was full of paperbacks.
I could gauge how much money we had based on where we got our books. Times were good, we went to the bookstore in the mall. Times were okay, we went to the used bookstore at the creepy strip mall. Times were lean, we went to the library. Reading itself was a luxury activity for my mom. It was the way she rewarded herself for getting through the day. No one bothered my mom after 7PM unless someone or something was on fire, bleeding or an unfortunate combination of the two.
My mom and I read very differently. She only read fiction. She read only one book at a time. She kept track of every book she’d ever read. She used bookmarks. I alternated between fiction and nonfiction as the spirit took me. It was not uncommon for me to get a quarter of a way through a book and realize I had already read it. I never used bookmarks because I never had trouble remembering where I was in the half a dozen or so books I had going at any one time. This last habit both fascinated and irritated my mom. She never quite believed me when I said I knew where I was in each of my books. It was like I was a skeevy street magician trying to fool her with some dumb card trick. My mom hated street magicians. They were afraid of her. It was funny to watch the dawning realization in their eyes that this short angry woman with the modified beehive hair-do and strapping daughter who resembled a golden retriever (that would be me) was going to mow them down if they didn’t scramble out of her way.
Needless to say, my mom never recommended books to me. Except one. In the summer of 1996, my mom handed my a paperback copy of Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money and said, “Here, you’re going to love this.” And boy did I. So did a bajillion other people because that novel was the first in a series that will hit its 25th installment this year. I stopped reading around number 12 but maybe I will go back and pick up the series because I reread One For the Money and it is still very funny.
Thanks mom, you only ever recommended one book but it was definitely a winner.