The Book Whisperer

If I could bottle up only one sound from my childhood, it would be the sound of my mother’s voice reading to me.

A mother and her daughter
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Some of my earliest memories are of us reading together on the couch, my brother and sister and me all clamoring to sit as close to our mother as we could. My mother’s soft voice read to us fairy tales and nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss and Aesop’s fables, little Golden books and Bible stories straight out of our big children’s picture Bible. For a half hour or more each night, we sat enchanted by the words and the sound of her reading aloud.

This daily ritual continued long after I could read for myself. Not a day went by that my mom didn’t read a book to me, from the time I was too young to remember straight through elementary years. Even after I started Jr. High, my mother still often read aloud:  short snippets from magazine articles, a particularly captivating paragraph from a book she happened to be reading for her own enjoyment, a chapter from the Bible in preparation for the week’s Sunday school lesson.

Sometimes my mother would help me study by reading my school textbooks aloud to me. Once, in college, I was frustrated with a very lengthy poem I needed to read for my literature class. I had returned home for a weekend visit, but spent the majority of Saturday in tears over the assignment. That evening my mother sat on the edge of my bed and read the entire poem aloud to me. Suddenly the poem made sense. My frustrations ceased, and I understood what the poet wanted to convey.

My mother always knew the best books to read. She was the one who introduced me to the wonderful stories that contained characters who became like special friends:

  • Scout and Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Anne, Diana, Marilla, and dear, sweet Matthew from Anne of Green Gables
  • Father Tim and his large dog Barnabas from At Home in Mitford
  • Ramona Quimby from Beezus and Ramona
  • Jo from Little Women
  • Sara Crewe who indeed was The Little Princess

One Christmas, my mother bought me an boxed set of The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those tattered books, read and reread countless times over the years, still line my bookshelf. Those stories are so ingrained in my mind that Mary and Laura, Ma and Pa feel almost like my own family.

One of my favorite parts of going to elementary school was the Scholastic Book Club orders. My mother always let me order at least one book, usually more. And if we walked into a bookstore, we almost always walked out with at least one book. I think it was hard for her to say no to book purchases.

Years ago, when my teens were toddlers, my mother called to tell me she had ordered books for my children for Valentine’s Day.  She asked me not to open the box until Valentine’s Day to keep it a surprise for the kids. A few days later, a box arrived on my doorstep. I dutifully set it aside. One the morning of Valentine’s Day, I gathered my kids around to open the box together. Sure enough, inside were three new picture books, one for each child. But also in the box, were TWO books for me. It was maybe the best surprise gift I have ever received.

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A day or two ago, I received an email from BookBub, a free service that helps readers discover books. The email asked the question:

What book are you thankful your mother introduced you to?

The email went on to share the answers from several BookBub employees. The books varied from more recent books such as the Magic Tree House series and Harry Potter to older classics such as The Outsiders and various novels by Judy Blume.

Naturally, I paused to determine my answer to this question, but I couldn’t come up with just one book.

(Well, actually I could. I’m grateful my mother read the Bible to me and encouraged me to read the Bible for myself. But I almost consider the Bible to be far more than just a book, so it feels wrong to give that as my answer.)

My mother introduced me to so many books and characters that it feels impossible to pick just one.  However, I’m grateful my mother introduced me to reading … but not because of the books or characters or authors.

I am grateful my mother loved reading for because she loved it, I did too. 

And reading gave me:

  • a love for words and the thoughts they convey
  • an appreciation for good literature
  • a head start in academics
  • an entire world of experiences at my fingertips
  • imagination and creativity
  • the pleasure of visiting libraries and bookstores
  • sharing excitement over discovering new books and authors
  • writing and the power of using written words

But perhaps the most important gift of reading was a way to connect to my quiet introverted mom. Somehow, in the pages of books, I found a way to enjoy the world with my mother.

So on this Mother’s Day Weekend, when I have so very many reasons to be thankful for my Mama, I’m recalling one of the more precious memories from my childhood … reading with my mom.

Thanks, Mama, for reading with me. I’m so grateful that you did.

 

 

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The Tale of the Blue Bandit Mother … or My First Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

This morning at 6:45 am sharp, Nathan (along with his sister and sidekick Julia) brought me a fabulous breakfast in bed.

Every year, Nathan goes all out on this one meal, orchestrating as many of the other kids in the house as he can to participate in feeding me a breakfast fit for a queen. This year was no exception. I got sunny-side up eggs, some cereal, a banana with a generous amount of Nutella and a large cup of coffee. It was elegantly served and came with two handmade cards.

(Shhh … don’t tell Nathan, but the Nutella on a banana alone would have been more than enough to make me a happy mother. Actually, Nutella spread on just about anything would have brought a smile to my face. Come to think of it, just a jar of Nutella would be a fantastic Mother’s Day gift.)

Nathan and Mother’s Day Breakfasts go back a long way. He’s been serving me breakfast in bed since Mother’s Day 2009. That was the year I was the Blue Bandit, and I didn’t get to actually eat my breakfast in bed. The bitter truth is that year I didn’t even get to eat my breakfast at all.

It’s the Tale of the Blue Bandit Mother, which I shall gladly share with you now.

The Blue Bandit Momma Sleeps Again!

In 2009, I was a single mother, living alone and working hard to raise my three children. As Mother’s Day approached I prepared myself to be delighted with whatever smallish things my young children might make for me at school and not expect anything bigger. After all, my three children were all under the age of 8. They didn’t have the money or any way to provide me with a nicer sort of gift, so expecting bouquets of roses or wrapped presents wasn’t even on my radar.

Nathan, my middle child, was finishing up 1st grade that spring. During the week prior to Mother’s Day, Nathan made lots of hints at a special gift he was making for me at school. It was obvious that he was thrilled about whatever it was the class was making for their mothers.

On Friday afternoon, I picked Nathan up from school, while the two other kids stayed behind to ride home with their grandmother (who was a teacher at the school). Immediately, he thrusts a bag into my hands.

It was a decorated paper sack, made to look like a mother sleeping in a bed. “How sweet!” I smiled at Nathan as I gazed at his artwork.

“It’s supposed to be you,” he said very sincerely.

I looked again at the construction paper mother, noting the blue sleep mask, the bright red lipstick and the beautiful pink bow on top her head. I wondered where my boy ever got the idea that I sleep while wearing a sleep mask or a bow in my hair.

Turning the bag over, I saw a printed poem pasted neatly on the back:

Since it is your day,
I have something to say:
Don’t lift your head.
Have breakfast in bed!
Just take a look …
You don’t have to cook!
I don’t like to brag
But here is breakfast in a bag!
Happy Mother’s Day 2009

“Oh … look! There’s something inside.” I started to open the bag.

“It’s not for now,” Nathan said sternly. “It’s for Sunday morning. If you eat it now, you won’t have breakfast in bed anymore.”

“I wasn’t going to eat it now. I was just going to look. Can I please take a peek at what I get to eat for breakfast on Sunday?”

“I guess so.”

Reaching inside the bag, I found a granola bar and a juice box, along with another card.

“I made you an extra card because I finished my work early.” Nathan looked very pleased with himself over this fact. I immediately saw that he has used his extra-nice handwriting. The card had large letters across the top, spelling out the words: I’m multiplying my love for you! Underneath that, Nathan had written out a whole bunch of multiplication facts.

“Aw … that is a very sweet card! I love it! And I can’t wait to eat that granola bar on Sunday morning.”

“And the juice,” said Nathan.

“And the juice. Definitely the juice. I’m looking forward to the granola bar and the juice.” I smiled as I agreed with him.

Later that afternoon, I drove Nathan over to his art class. On the short car ride (which was literally all of five minutes), Nathan said, “Mom, I am really very hungry and thirsty.”

“Well, when you get to art class, you can have a drink of water.”

“I’m thirstier and hungrier than that. I feel like I’m going to faint!” Nathan closed his eyes, leaned back his head and clutched his stomach.

“Well, it’s the best I can offer you because I don’t have any snacks with me.”

Nathan raised up his head to stare at me in disbelief.Slowly he reached down by my purse, and gingerly picked up my Mother’s Day breakfast in a bag. With a sly grin, he said, “Maybe you could share your breakfast with me.”

Two minutes later, he was brushing off granola bar crumbs and sucking down the last of the juice box.

Even though I didn’t get to actually eat my first Mother’s Day Breakfast, I still cherish the bag, as well as the boy who made it … and continues to make me the most delicious Mother’s Day breakfasts.

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“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”   ~Honore de Balzac”

May she who gave you birth be happy.  ~Proverbs 23:25