Writers on Mothers
Authors share their favorite memories of their moms.
I remember coming home from school on Wednesdays to find dough rising in the big brown ceramic bowl Mom used for bread-making that could accommodate a quadruple recipe. We were a family of eight, so keeping us fed was a big job, one she took seriously. She made everything from scratch and was a good cook, but what I remember best was her bread. I never ate a store-bought loaf until I was older, which made me appreciate all the more how good I’d had it the years I was growing up. Our deep-freezer in the garage was stocked with enough loaves to feed an army, all different kinds: white, whole wheat, Swedish rye, oatmeal (my favorite), graham. During the holiday season she made cinnamon bread that she frosted and decorated with “flowers” made from cut-up citron. We gave those loaves to our teachers and the postman and other people who were important in our lives. In my memory our entire cul-de-sac in Woodside, California was fragrant with the scent of cinnamon and fresh-baked bread at that time of year. My mom is no longer with us, sadly, but I still have her recipes, which I treasure. I’ve carried on the tradition of making cinnamon bread at Christmastime. The rest of the year, there’s a little part of her in everything I do or bake.
SUZANNE BRAUN LEVINE
My mother loved Nantucket Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, and after my father died she bought a time-share there. When my children were growing up, we had a tradition of spending a week there in June, usually including my birthday. Just us and the kids. She would sketch the scenery and I would go biking with first one and then both of my children. I think of the passage of those fifteen or so years in terms of my young bikers gaining confidence and skill as they rode behind me like little ducks, and then getting so confident that they rode ahead of me and waited at our destination, where my mother would be waiting in the car to pick us and our bikes up and take us for ice cream.
My late mother, Marilyn, sadly passed away when I was in my early twenties, but people are still shaking in their boots! My mother was nobody’s fool. She was amused and slightly bemused by what passed for conventional thought. She had disdain for people who followed the crowd and called them “sheep.” “Don’t be like all the sheep,” she would stress when she saw what she considered foolish common “pack” behavior. She was cutting and sardonic and caustic but very, very funny.
I remember sitting with my sister, one on either side of Mother, as she read Robert W. Service to us:
“There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold . . .”
Those words, even today, put me back on that couch with the flickering lamplight (no power), and the scent of wood smoke in the air. She also read us “The Lady of the Lake:”
“. . . Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill . . .”
She and Dad took turns reading “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner aloud:”
“As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean.”
I think all of this influenced my love of poetry that has rhyme and rhythm and descriptive phrases I strive to put into my own writing so readers can see what I’m seeing, as I saw what those writers saw.
My mother taught me to read when I was four, mainly to keep me out of her hair, and created an avid, even compulsive, reader from that point on. The secure childhood she and Dad gave us certainly influenced my writing, in that most of my stories involve mothers and children and all have happy endings.