One of my most joyous moments is this one when Clara wrote a “book” for me, and we read it together. She had no idea this was a peak experience in my life–the emergence of another writer in the family. There is a strong thread of storytelling in my tribe, and I’m thrilled and proud that Clara has slipped into our stream of consciousness.
Clara is my first grandchild, and she is the world. Sometimes when I see her from the corner of my eye, I see Elizabeth as if yesterday had come to visit. One of the great blessings in my life is that my own mother is with us to see this glorious child blossom at the start of a new generation.
My mom was my first mentor. Before I could read or write, I insisted I was a storyteller, and she had the instincts and compassion to take me seriously. I was fascinated with paper and ink and ideas. Church collection envelopes, bank deposit slips, bridge score pads–everything was fair game. Mom had three-n-a-row kids, and I was in the middle, but she still made time to sit with me and take down my stories as I dictated them. My thoughtful grandma saved some samples of my work.
Another mentor wasn’t my mother, but a teacher. Mrs. Marge Green, Grade 3, School 11, Olean, New York. This is the teacher I hope every child gets to have in their life–one who knows how to assess a child where she is and take her to the next level. She noticed that I had burned through all the reading-level calibrated volumes in the classroom. I’d finished the entire set of “Phonics We Use.” I’d read the amazing Big Tree. I told her I wanted to write books, and she said simply, “Then you should write a book.”
So I did.
There were other mentors in my life–the seventh-grade teacher who took me seriously when I rewrote the end of Of Mice and Men (Lenny lives!). The high school field hockey coach who encouraged me to run a book club on the team bus. The college professors who didn’t dismiss my work or my ambitions. The graduate school cadre that treated my ideas with honesty and respect. The work colleagues who didn’t judge me when I spent lunch hour down a rabbit hole, writing. The fellow young moms who swapped babysitting chores to I could meet my deadlines.
And back to my mom. She still beams with pride each time I publish a book. She still commiserates when I fumble, still encourages me to get up and try again. She still loves me without constraints or conditions. She exudes the joy I feel for my own daughter and granddaughter.
The one thing all mentors have in common with my mom is the character trait I want to celebrate, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day–they are the nurturers. The ones who honor a person’s flights of imagination, wherever they may go–and sometimes offer a soft place to fall.
So if you’re a mother or a mentor, here’s to you. Every single day.
PS: Remember to read, because you’re never alone when you’re reading a book.
#MothersDay #Mentors #writinglife