Friday, May 8, 2009

My mother's day

I remember being so frustrated. I was probably four or five years old, and I couldn't read. Both of my parents could read, of course, even though neither made it to high school. My dad quit at age 16 in the fifth grade, and my mother got sick in the eighth grade and never went back.

First grade was a struggle and a blessing. I struggled in getting along with the other kids, but I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I read happily, often trying material two or three years ahead. My first-grade teacher, Vina Shaver, pushed my parents to get me to read, and I doubt she realized that I needed little or no pushing.

I remember that my third-grade teacher — Mrs. Mary Simpson, I believe — had a little library of books. My first book from her shelves was a sci-fi tome for kids, and I loved it. I read as many of her books as I could, and I moved on to more adult fare.

My parents couldn't guide my reading much, although my mother, Agnes, handed me three of her books: "Little Men", "Little Women" and "The Tempest." Louisa May Alcott wasn't my cup of Earl Grey, but Shakespeare rocked (at least what of it I understood).

Why bring this up? Today was my mother's birthday. She was born 94 years ago and has been gone for 31 years, and she still presides over me in her quiet way. She couldn't teach me to read, but she encouraged me to do so.

I wrote one newspaper story during her lifetime, a feature on a famous pool player (Jack White) for my college newspaper. I'm not sure she totally understood what the story was about or even realized that it was for the college paper, but she showed it to friends and family members. She was so, so proud. Mom loved the fact that I wanted to be a writer.

She died over spring break that year, 1978, and never saw another of the thousands of articles I've written for newspapers, magazines, web sites and other media. She never saw my books or comic-book scripts, and yet I can almost feel the pride she'd have felt if she had lived.

I haven't celebrated Mother's Day in many years — it seems hollow somehow — but I remember May 8 with quiet emotion and pride. It's my mother's day.

Entries from The Dog Blog
Blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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