My mother taught me to read when I was so young that I do not have a active memory of it. My memory device (I think it is referred to in medical texts as a “brain”) started to record life when I was two-and-a-half, and in my recollections of moments spent with my mom and with books, I am an active participant in the task at hand: our endless laughter at the very idea of eating green eggs and ham (the “and ham” was my favorite part), our (re-)discovery of the Cat in the Hat’s many hijinks.
Mother’s Day, the annual holiday, is one whose date I annually forget. It is perhaps because it is celebrated on different dates in different nations and I have online friends in some of those different nations that “Happy Mother’s Day” Facebook posts make a weekly appearance in the spring. I think that I have sent my own (American) mom a Happy Mother’s Day note twice in one year thanks to this phenomenon.
Today is not Mother’s Day; it is my mom’s birthday, my own Mother’s Day.
My mom must have made books seem magical to me. This is something that I have reflected on in recent years: I loved my kids’ books and I loved all the illustrations in them, but she somehow made it clear that the words were something else. The images in my head were not always the images on the pages and these images were the product of the words that she and I were touching together with our index fingers and sounding out.
“Cat.” Touch the word on the page and the picture of the cat, and, uninvited (like a cat in a hat), other cats would come to mind (my grandmother’s cats, say, each one with the same name, “Maude,” a bit of family lore which is its own anecdote). It may have been that simple, but it was everything. I wanted to do that myself; I wanted to put words on a page that would create images in my head with or without Dr. Seuss’ wonderful drawings.
I started to scrawl words, before I knew how to write letters, on every available surface. My family still has a coffee table on which I “wrote” in crayon what appears to be a fairly long sentence. It’s not a mindless scribble exactly: it ends with a period. I do not remember making it, this caveman’s declaration of existence, because I was that young and my mom gave me the gift of a connection between things that looked like words and speech and images in my mind.
It may be true that everything I have written, from news articles to radio skits to angry opinion columns to humorous essays, can be summarized thus: “Thank you, Mom.” And Happy Birthday.
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