It’s taken me all my life to grasp the full comprehension why I hold my mother in angel like status. The lynch-pin to that love and admiration began with the simplest of gestures.
She read to me regularly as a young child.
Mom spent many quiet, tender, calming moments with me sharing other worlds than the one I was awkwardly stuck in. My real world was often damagingly chaotic and unpredictable. Home was not always safe.
Despite many admirable qualities Dad had significant anger management issues. Fueled by stress to succeed, frustrations with his own childhood, business complications, and ill health Dad was often a ticking time bomb. Further fanned by his obvious mental health problems Mom and I and my two siblings spent most of our time making sure we were ‘out of sight out of mind’.
I learned early that the safest place for me was not at home, or at least not around Dad. Out in the community Dad was a stellar leader – at home -mean and bullying. Later in life I recognized my father was also the victim of failed parenting. He grew up never really knowing love or tenderness from his own mother or father.
Regardless why, home was often a touch of hell.
When dad was not screaming at Mom or I he was often physically abusive. The majority of the scars I carried before recent surgeries were due to Dad. Numerous times I felt the impact of his back hand, fist, belt or peeled willow branch. However it was his cruel put downs and insults that cut the deepest.
And so it was amid all of that chaos that Mom managed to find a mechanism or opportunity to at least bring some sanity back into my young world with bed-time book reading. It provided a much needed safe time for me at the end my day. Father was quite happy seeing me off to bed and the wife performing her ‘motherly duties’ while I was quite happy to have some cuddles and calm time with my best friend.
Sometimes the readings went on for a long time, to which I was thrilled and never asked, ‘how come Mom?’ – afraid that by doing so she would leave. I think now some of those lengthy reading scenarios were for Mom’s sanity and safety as well. She was a bigger victim than I most of the time.
I’m pretty sure my special, peaceful, happy bedtime with Mom may have precipitated several ‘sick’ days at home away from school as well. I missed a lot of school before age 10 legitimately from illness however I’m confident I milked the scenario a few times.
Mom gave me the love for words
As a youngster going to sleep I visited all parts of the world and beyond – carried away in the words of some author eloquently brought to life by my mother’s soft voice and clear diction. Her brilliant blue eyes would dance across the page then up into mine to see if I could see what she was seeing. My first recalls were her sharing nursery rhymes, then classic children’s collections. I was enthralled with Sammy the Jay and others from the many Burgess Bedtime Stories. Mom and her writer friends helped me visit so many places and characters from all eras and every genre.
My imagination was fed and let loose.
As I started reading she encouraged me to buy a comic book a week with money I earned and she would match the purchase. The only catch was if I wanted her to make that match I had to buy a Classic comic. Classics were two cents more and better produced but it was the story content that counted. All Classic comic books were abbreviated versions of classic books such as Ivanhoe, Tale of Two Cities, Treasure Island, Frankenstein… I was lost in the glory of storytelling.
By grade six I was already dreaming of writing books, starting great novels (finishing few of course), writing journals and lyrics to my own songs.
In my teen years my love for reading and writing was hugely motivated by adult mentors such as Phyllis Kitson who inspired my love of poetry.
I struggled through school, not fitting the regimented routine or taking classes I thought I would likely never use. I wound up skipping a lot of classes and while, granted, I spent some of that time hanging out in the parking lot, most of the time I was hunkered down in a corner of the library with a good book. I never stopped reading, except to start writing.
That love for creating was further inspired and encouraged by teachers Doug Moore, Ian Middler, Mo Reveryand and most of all my creative writing teacher Eileen Cassidy. All of them fed my Mom’s inspired love for words.
Looking back to those wonderful nights tucked in my bed I know now that it was Mom’s timeout for her little boy and a good book that set my pathway for future page turning. Mom started it and I thank her dearly for it.