You taught me how to read.
There are a million gifts that you gave me, being my mother, and yet when I saw a post on Facebook that prompted me to think of all the ways you've blessed me, that was the first that sprang to mind.
A month ago, in class, one of the students led a Feminist Studies exercise and we were supposed to write down a woman whom we admired, and why we admired her.
I wrote down you.
And somehow, in some way, that was linked to you teaching me how to read, because you taught me how to read when it was supposed to be strangers, kindergarten or first-grade teachers, doing that, and instead it was you. The same way that it was you who taught Emily, and Eric, and Maggie, and Jeremy.
I admire my mother, I wrote, because in a time when women were expected to put their children in day-care and go back to work, my mom chose to stay at home and raise her kids, and homeschool them before homeschooling was popular or even considered normal or valid.
So the gifts, my mother, that you gave me, that all began with you teaching me how to read:
Storybooks before bedtime. (M. and J. and I scuffle to be the one who gets to "sit side Mommy!")
Making us read aloud. (Remember the Betsy and Eddie books, and you reading one page out loud and then me reading the other?)
Hours and hours at the library. (I stuffed my backpack so full of books I could scarcely drag it out to the van.)
History books that made history come alive with real people and stories, instead of reducing it to dates and dry facts. (The more people I meet who say they "hate history", the more I realize the time and effort and love it took for you to research and read so many books, so that your children would love history.)
Story-Bible reading every day with school. (Helping us understand... pointing us quietly to the God-love.)
Chapter books before bed as we got older. (Remember "By The Great Horn Spoon"? And "The Bronze Bow"? And all the Bonnie books?)
Books for our birthdays, under the Christmas tree, in our Easter baskets. (I think that if you'd had the budget for it you would have given us books at the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving too.)
And then, in all those words, came my own words... and I came to you, asking for another notebook, and you didn't intrude, you just let me scribble... and scribble... and scribble. Eighteen notebooks full. And then the computer files. (Thank you for forcing me to learn to type, much as I bucked and protested!) The fights with M. and J. because I was taking up too much computer time, writing. Remember the monthly journal entries, you teaching us editing and revising? And Mr. Pudewa and learning outlines (I kicked against those, too, but he was so funny I was won over). And Denise and the creative writing class at the library. Then my own journals, and the novel, and the short stories, and you watched, you never intruded, but you encouraged when I asked you for it, and you helped my love-affair with writing progress.
The love that wouldn't have begun if not for you.
Everyone always asks me if I want to teach, since I'm an English major (the common belief being, apparently, that English majors only exist to teach English in schools and have no other practical use), and I always say no... no. Because they mean teach English in schools.
But perhaps I should start saying yes.
Thank you, Mom. Thank you for that gift.
Happy Mother's Day!