May 1, 2013

Mother's Day: Agnes and the Box of Books

Saturday Evening Post April 16, 1910
Saturday Evening Post April 16, 1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Going back to those years when I was a child is not easy. For those who are younger, a mother is probably a active important presence in the life of the family. She acts as the friend, mother and grandmother. She is still there.

But my mother has been gone for 10 years and suffered from age related dementia for many years before that. My memories were taken away and replaced by anguish and fear. I suppose that is why I had such a hard time remembering the mother I loved more dearly than life itself. She was a wonderful example and teacher. It is all coming back to me now.

Her name was Agnes. She was beautiful with black wavy hair and an alabaster skin. She laughed often and worked harder than any woman should have. My grandfather said she was a little pony doing a plow horse work. I remember the gift of garden vegetables and a beautifully kept home. She loved her life I think and I know she loved my father and me. For that I am very grateful. But there is so much more.

One of my earliest memories is of a small nook my father created in the corner of our little mining camp house. My mother guided it's design and above the table were shelves filled with books.  Somewhere in a scrapbook there is a picture of me sitting with my cousin busily pretending to write. I was three years old.

Every night until I thought I had out grown it, my mother read to me. I loved stories about fairies and hidden rooms. A subscription to Jack and Jill magazine was the best Christmas gift I ever received. Every year until she quit buying gifts I would receive a book of some kind.

The small community we moved to when I was 7 did not have a library. A summer without books was unthinkable for my mother so she wrote a letter to our state library and requested a box of books just for me. The day it arrived was one of the happiest days of my life. I can still smell those books and feel the weight of each one in my hands.

Her story telling skills were phenomenal. I did not know that all mothers could not do this. She was my peep hole into the world and she encouraged my desire to see new places and explore possibilities.
Her love for a good mystery was fed by the issues of Saturday Evening Post. There was always a story that was continued from week to week. She would fill me in on the latest episode and I suppose I read my very first printed words from that that magazine's cartoons.
“She did all right, for a cat that didn’t know a soul
in the neighborhood three months ago.”
Saturday Evening Post, December 7, 1957

As I grew in reading skills, she subscribed to the shortened books put out by Readers Digest so I could enjoy wonderful books in a condensed format. She belonged to the Book of the Month Club and when I was a teen I read most of those best sellers. I still possess many of those books today.

We lived in a very small town filled with an assortment of nationalities and social classes. She watched the world from her front window or the pew she selected at the church. There was no local newspaper so she garnered information from her friends. A sewing club would meet every so often and the local gossip was issued out like it was news from the New York Times. Even after I was a grown woman with children of my own, I looked forward to a visit home so I could hear the latest story about the red head that lived on the edge of town or how the local retired madam was getting along.

I suppose we could all add courage or achievement or wise or generous to our mother's description. My mother possessed all those traits. But the most precious gift she gave me was a love for reading and the telling of a good story. I cannot imagine what my life would have been without her.

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