I read a eulogy the other day, one that touched me to tears. The man who wrote it had lost his mother recently and the eulogy was not so much in praise of her, although that was present, but in praise of her support of him. I started thinking about my own mother.
My parents were social, outgoing people. So was my brother. All three of them were physically gorgeous. On the weekends, their favorite thing was to play 18 holes of golf on Saturday and then go out to dinner at the Officers’ Club Saturday night. I begged off from both events, considering each to be a fate worse than the death. To this day organ music at dinner gives me hives.
Instead, I read prodigiously. My mother always ran interference for me. Even when she shooed me out the door to go and enjoy the sunlight and the summer, she handed me my current book, a towel, and a bottle of suntan lotion.
I was probably a pain
I think I must have been a trial to my mother. I never wanted to participate in anything. I only wanted to read. When I wasn’t reading I was writing. I covered notebook after notebook with thoughts, feelings, and stories. She always made excuses for me, gave me time to myself, drove me to the library every few days, and never said anything when I emerged with huge stacks of books.
My mother’s high school graduation present to me was a set of dictionaries and thesaurus in gold embossed red leather. I still have them. (And since I’ve been through two floods and a ghastly divorce that’s saying something.)
When I was a new mother, living in Chicago, my mother sent me a typewriter, the same typewriter on which I wrote my first book. That book was subsequently lost but I’ll never forget the joy of writing it. Later, when I was a widow supporting two children (and perpetually broke) she bought me my first computer. That’s the computer on which I wrote Tapestry and the next three books.
A true swan
My mother encouraged my imagination. She fueled it. She took me to museum after museum. She arranged for me to be able to see sites most people don’t see. One summer she insisted on renting a house not far from the ruins of a Spanish castle, only so I could explore it whenever I wanted. She knew I was a dreamer and she protected that part of me. She never insisted I be anyone else even though I was so different from the rest of the family.
My mother died before I was published. So many times I wish I could have handed her one of my books and said, “Thank you, Mom. Thank you for being so supportive of me. Thank you for understanding I marched to a different drum, that I heard a tune no one else could hear. Thank you for allowing me to be me.” I like to think she knows anyway. Swans often turn into angels.
I know mothers are supposed to be supportive; it’s one of the tenets of motherhood. But it’s a blessing when you’re given unconditional acceptance. I can only hope that I was as understanding with my own child.