Jul 5, 2014

A Reading Mother

Marlene, 1978

Sunday’s, after church and lunch, mother would read the Sunday paper. Glasses would perch low on the bridge of her nose. She sat, legs crossed, on the couch, still in church clothes, heels kicked off, a long string of pearls and that small pocket watch on a gold chain graced her slender neck. She read closely, page by page, throughout the afternoon well past the sun’s brightest rays spilling across the hardwood floor. 

In the quiet evening hours mom was frequently found reclined, pillows stacked behind her head, book in hand. The thick volumes of historical fiction and poetry on her bedside table and the half a dozen National Geographic or art books stacked on the living room coffee table were ever changing. She was a devoted library patron who scoured those shelves for history, culture, and faith in every genre. Her home was littered with books and her life was peopled with fellow readers. Book Clubs were not common in small town midAmerica in that era and yet, mom had one. The community of women gathered monthly to enjoy the brisk conversation that good reads foster and I had the privilege to be their guest one summer morning. Suffice it to say that one does not really know their mom until you have heard her converse articulately about the literary merits of a classic book of fiction or a recent best seller. I was startled by her range of knowledge and impressed by her articulate manner of discussion. It was a watershed moment for me, seeing her in the fullness of her character.  

She read to to be inspired. She read to study and she read to teach. There were years that read to her young children. There were years that she taught adult Bible study classes. Then there were years that she returned to the University.  A corner of the living room was set aside for portraits of her children under which was placed her desk. It was a beautiful, oval, antique oak, writing desk, place at an angle from the framed, wide beveled glass, window. It was paired with a carved oak chair with a caned seat. Their uniquely grained surfaces and finely carved details were stunning. It is poignant to recall her seated there, under the lamp light, with opened books leaning against each other, spread out in front of her as she studied. She relished social sciences, Russian literature, Women’s Studies, and Biblical history. Tolstoy, Friedan, the Gospels, Hebrew texts, and multiple versions of Bibles covered her desk in those years. During this season of life Mama Marlene’s slight frame seemed to gain noticeable stature. She stood taller. She spoke with even more eloquence. Her mind was lit up by academic pursuits. I will forever remember the joy and passion that she claimed from the rigors and knowledge of advanced learning. Her reading was perennial. Every season, any hour, life long. It is fair to say she read voraciously.

Her children too, became readers. Our professions and interests mirror hers, in reinvented interpretations of our own. The wellspring, undeniably, was our mother’s example and her passion for the wealth of imaginative, intellectual, and spiritual inspiration that can be found in the printed word. 

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  1. Lisa,
    What a beautiful tribute to your mom :) Loved it....visiting from The Weekend Brew

    1. I appreciate your kind words! Thanks for your visit to Still Waters via the Brew.

  2. You write like one who reads, friend. This is exceptional in both flow and substance. Thank you for a hallowed glimpse into your mother's passion. I think she would have been a woman I would have enjoyed knowing.
    So nice to have you with us at Unforced Rhythms. I hope you'll join us again.

    1. Unforced Rhythms is a name that calls to a writer; responses read like the varied wisps of a refreshing breeze. I appreciate your hospitality and the generous words that you left here.