Mom always made the assumption I would be the recipient of a major award one day, and she asked that, when I accepted that award, I should thank her for providing high protein meals. She was under the impression protein was essential for success in life. I’m not prepared to refute that claim with any scientific evidence, but I suspect I consumed more carbohydrates than protein as a child. I loved bread, cookies, cereal, etc. That may be why we’re both still waiting for my red carpet moment, but I do owe her a “thank you” for what I have achieved as a writer.
I started out as an artist and illustrator. Crayola 64 and Ticonderoga #2 were my weapons of choice, and when I finished a piece, I presented it to Mom. Like any young child, I was eager to hear words of praise, and she was generous…if I deserved it. Mom would not gush over a mediocre drawing. Her first words were never, “Oh, how wonderful!” More often, she would say, “What is it?” She was not a fan of abstract art, and she had high expectations for representational works. On occasion she would say, “I think you can do better.” Her faint praise was not damning. It was, in fact, encouraging. She believed I could work harder and produce better results. She was right. I could do better.
When I moved on to the written word, she continued to play the role of editor and critic. Mom had been a teacher, and she was always ready to offer feedback on my essays and reports through my school years. Even when she wasn’t available to read my drafts, I could imagine her wielding an editing pencil, and I would ask myself, “Could I do better?”
In my first book, Mom was deeply concerned about my passion for the semi-colon. She thought I was overusing it. What can I say? I was infatuated with that sassy bit of punctuation. It took a while to get over it, but Mom was right. In my latest book she pointed out that periods and commas always go inside quotation marks. While it doesn’t always make sense to me grammatically, it is a publishing standard Mom learned while typesetting at a commercial art studio in Juneau.
I still call Mom regularly to discuss some grammatical matter. We hold the phone between our ear and shoulder and thumb through our Gregg Reference Manuals to find some rule of usage or punctuation and discuss its application to a sentence over which I am puzzling. Those conversations are some of my favorite moments with Mom. A teacher, a typesetter, a great mom, and an inspiration.
Thanks, Mom, for your honesty, encouragement, and high protein meals. And sugar cookies. I do love your sugar cookies.
Happy Mother’s Day.