Monday, January 26, 2015

Planting the Seed

Today marks my mother's fifty-seventh year of life. I deliberately steered clear from saying that she celebrated 57 years, because if you know my mother, you know that she doesn't celebrate things that have to do with her. She leaves that for the accomplishments of her grandchildren and her kids. But that doesn't mean that I can't celebrate her.

My mother was the first person to read to me. Before child psychologists were posting articles on HUFFPOST about the importance of reading to children in the womb, my mother did that. I had a library of age appropriate books since the day I was born, thanks to her. She loved to read and worked hard to pass that on to me. As you can tell by reading my posts, her work paid off.

My mom looks insanely happy to be carrying me in her womb
I have followed in her footsteps and have made sure my daughter has books that challenge her, among the old stand-bys she loves. Like my mother did with me, I take my little girl to the library regularly and she loves checking out books. Growing up, I remember my mother reading in bed, her books usually found in various places in the house where she found a moment to read a few pages between caring for us. I have always made sure my daughter sees me reading, too and I can definitely say that she associates me with books. 

Like most kids, I had my favorite books that I would beg my mother to read over and over again. I don't recall her rebuking my requests, or making me feel silly for wanting to hear the same story night after night. Many of those books are still my favorites and I have enjoyed reading them with my daughter. I am incredibly thankful that my mother saw value in reading to me because from what I know about her childhood, she didn't get read to, books were not a part of the landscape of her home, and her parents emphasized other priorities at the time. 

I was just about to be born. I'm guessing that's why she's smiling
Raising three children in the heart of Chicago isn't easy or cheap. Despite this, my mother was always buying me books. I'd come home from school sometimes and there would be a bag full of books for me. The built-in shelves that separated the living room and dining room of our house was filled floor to ceiling with my books for years. In sixth grade, I started selling my books because my mother warned that if I didn't get rid of old books, there would be no room for new books. That was not a risk I was willing to take.

As the years drew on and our schedules became more hectic, I didn't see my mother reading as often, or find her Danielle Steel books around the house anymore. At the time, I didn't notice the change but I notice it a lot more now that she lives with me. I still have shelves (and boxes) of books that I sometimes see her rummage through and sometimes she even thumbs through one, but its been a long time since I've seen her curl up with one and to be truthful, it makes me a little sad because that sight was a comfort in my youth. It came to symbolize something we shared and gave me a feeling of peace. I understand that her eye sight isn't what it used to be and that her attention span and energy level has waned, but I still miss that sight that is so much a memory from my childhood.

I doubt that I would be where I am today if it hadn't been for the groundwork my mother laid. Making books such an integral part of my childhood was one of the most impacting things she did for me. It accelerated my speech, expanded my vocabulary, enriched my spelling abilities, and elevated my confidence. Those affects linger to this day. But it did more than that. Books were an escape from the mundane. They were a place to go that did not involve poverty, discrimination, violence, and the hustle I saw around me. When life got overwhelming I had a place to go where I didn't have to figure anything out. Authors took me on journeys that cracked open my imagination and helped me become an innovative thinker. That is a skill for which I can never thank my mother enough. 

With my mom and her mom, my grandmother
In the daily grind of life I don't tell my mother often enough how much of a savior she has been for me. Even though we live together, most times when our paths cross we are tired, distracted or busy with commitments and I don't take the time to thank her for giving me the most wonderful gift I have ever gotten. She planted seeds that have grown roots and branches in my life in a myriad of ways that trickle into every single aspect of my life. Those seeds became the foundation for how I see and interact with the world. Those seeds have been replanted in how I am raising my daughter, and hopefully she will pass it on to her kids. That is something that should be celebrated every day. 

Thank you mom. I love you and appreciate all you sacrificed for me. I am honored and lucky to be your daughter.

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