The Gift My Mother Gave Me

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One of my favorite memories from childhood is sitting in a quiet library, sitting with crossed legs in the middle of the bookcase aisle, lost in a stack of books. My mom would take me and my siblings and let us browse for what felt like hours. Instead of a requirement to choose at least one book, I was restricted instead on how many I could bring home. One day, tired of watching me agonize over a choice between a book on ballet and a historical fiction novel, my mother handed me the most dangerous weapon I have ever held - my very own library card.

It was more exciting than a birthday present.

But, powerful as the library card is, it is not the gift my mother gave me.

In my years as patron of the Henderson Public Library, I checked out hundreds, maybe thousands of books. Some were fiction, but the majority were not. Many focused on spirituality, the humanities, and mythology.

My mom liked looking through the books I chose before I checked them out. I realize looking back how clever she was to literally read my mind through the titles of my selections. At the time I thought she was looking for books to censor.

But there was never a "no". There were only trips to the library.

My parents didn't fund many extra-curricular activities. They didn't pay my college tuition. But I know I had outrageous library fines. My mom paid them with a smile.

My introverted, yet heavily connected mother made many introductions.

Alice in Wonderland gave me curiosity,
Harry Potter taught me the magic of love,
The House on Mango Street erased divisions,
the Grimm brothers showed me how to read between the lines.

I saw the heavy strokes of 'Starry Night' in an art book long before I saw the painting at the MoMa. I learned the science of sunflowers - that they grow from seeds, earth, and sun. But the Greeks say Clytie loved the sun god so much she became the first. Wisdom says both are true.

As I grew in confidence, I learned to make my own library map.

girl reading book

Today, Desmond and Mpho Tutu help me forgive.
Brene Brown encourages me to heal.
C.S Lewis continually ruins everything I think I know about religion.
Natalie Goldberg whispers in my ear when I write.

My mama, a woman of few words, raised me on reading and writing.
Ironically, what she gave me will not fit on a single written page.
Her gift is only found by sitting crossed-leg on the scratchy carpet in the middle of a library aisle.

© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.