As Mother’s Day approaches, I am reminded of the tremendous impact my mother had on me. Not only did she shape my character, foster my strong sense of independence, and ensure that I got an education, but she had a huge impact on my career.
I never saw a woman love books the way Mama did. They were almost sacred to her. Around our house, the only legitimate excuse for getting out of shelling peas and washing dishes was to say, “I’m reading.”
Although, we lived on a small Mississippi farm on the outskirts of town, Mama made certain that my two sisters and I had plenty of books to read. She lobbied with the Lee County Library to let our house be one of the outreach stops for the bookmobile.
The plan was to leave boxes of books with us so the neighbors could come to visit and select what they wanted. The plan went slightly awry because I wanted to read all the books first and then share with the other kids in the neighborhood. Mama took umbrage at that idea, so I learned to read very fast.
I can still see myself sitting on the front porch steps on bookmobile day, impatient for the first sight of the big blue traveling library. I can still smell the glue of book bindings and feel the pages in all those lovely, lovely books. I can still see Miss Frankie’s smile as she opened the bookmobile door and told me about the books a girl my age should read.
My love of reading, handed down by Mama, inspired me to become a writer. Mama loved it! She used to travel with me to conferences and sit on the front row during my workshops, beaming while I stood at the podium and said, “I’ll answer any questions you have except those about writing love scenes. Mama’s in the audience.” My colleagues and more than a few fans started calling her Mama.
In her last few months, Mama lived in an extended care home that had a tiny library. If I didn’t find her up front, visiting with friends, I’d always find her there. She read every book they had. And she never failed to make the same introduction to her friends when I walked through the door. “This is my daughter. She’s a writer!”