There are certain gifts that parents give their children that contain such overwhelming power in simplicity that they don’t even realize the impact of their actions at the time. The gift my mother gave to me was that she always read to me before bed. Our ritual was that she would allow me to pick one of my hundreds of books and she would climb in next to me and we would enter a fantasy world together. She never cared if I asked her to read the same book over and over again. My favorite was always Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. We must have read it at least 200 times.
I would watch my mom as she slowly opened the book, careful not to bend the pages. Her fingers would glide over the edges of the book, feeling the words underneath each line as she read. She would point things out in the pictures, read in different character voices and sometimes, she would even smell the pages of the book. If you aren’t a book lover, you won’t understand this, but there is just something about the smell of a good book. She did the same thing with her own books, and over the years, I loved watching her sit on our front, brick porch, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette, turning pages slowly to a paperback. There is an art to reading a great book.
If you have never read Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, it is about a little girl named Charlotte who is looking for a birthday present for her mother. Mr. Rabbit helps her look for the perfect thing, even though in their search, Charlotte learns that her mother has almost everything she would ever desire. I remember one time when I was about five, while reading the book, I stopped my mom and asked her what she would want for the perfect birthday present.
“Hmmmm..,” she said, thinking to herself. “I think I would just want you to have all of your wildest dreams come true.”
“But what if I don’t know what those are?” I asked.
My mom laughed. “What do you think you might want to be some day?”
I already knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to be a writer and tell stories like Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. I wanted to create new worlds for people to read about and characters that they would fall in love with as if they existed in real life. As a lonely child, I lived in the imaginary and books were my escape. I wanted to do the same for other people and had already started making my own little books. “I want to be a writer.”
“Then be a writer. And if that makes you happy, that will be the only birthday present I will ever need.”
Throughout the years, I wrote my mom many poems and short stories, always for her birthday. She loved them all, even when they were horrible and kept them wrapped in thin paper or displayed in frames around her house. She always encouraged my dreams of being a writer, even though I think she knew it was a lofty idea. She herself even wanted to be a writer, and in fact, did write a book that I found after she died; Dear Mick Jagger; Waiting for a Friend. Thoughts on a Woman Growing Up and Older.
Today I was driving home from my office, stressing out over the fact that in less 8 hours, my book The Before Now and After Then will be released and I will, in fact, be a published writer. I pulled into my driveway, thoughts of the hundreds of things I have to do in preparation and sat, looking at my yard. A large rabbit sat on our front porch staring out at me. I was not dreaming and I am not making this up. We live around a lot of nature, but rabbits do not venture up to our front porch, especially with three dogs waiting to chase after them.
I sat there silently, watching that rabbit, but he didn’t move for the longest time. And then, he just slowly hopped down the walk and around our house. I was instantly reminded of Charlotte and her rabbit friend and late nights with my mom reading about their adventure and me asking, “just one more time Mom”, and she would. She always would.
And because of that, tonight I will be a published writer. Today is not her birthday, but wherever she is, she’s smiling, knowing I’ve accomplished the biggest thing on my bucket list and I have made my dreams come true. All because of a mom who believed in simple stories and the power of a goodnight story.
I love you Mom…I hope I’ve made you proud…
Stay tuned for the release of my book The Before Now and After Then July 29th 2014! It would really mean a lot to me if you’d add it to your Goodreads to-read shelf and go there to find out more and visit my author page! Thanks!