Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom

I've been too tired to brave a trip to the library, so this illness has given me the opportunity to attack the stack of books I own and always meant to read but couldn't ever quite bring myself to start.

The first was 1776 which, I am ashamed to admit, I ended up skimming most of the way. Lots and lots of people have raved about it to me, and I admit that it was well-written and quite easygoing for a history/war book. But it never gripped me and I found myself slogging. (It doesn't help that my brain is foggy anyway. In that state I have low tolerance for nonfiction.) So I finally gave myself permission to do some heavy skipping ahead and called it good.

Now I'm well into How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Lewellyn. And here is what I have to say about it: oh my goodness. This is why I probably will never get around to writing that novel I flirt with in my mind. It's one of those far-reaching books that takes you, very slowly, through the life of the main character. Episode after episode, the way life is. Some sad and sweet, some horrible, some hilarious. I could never, never find the patience, or be gripped by a single story, enough to produce something like this. This is the kind of story that comes only when its writer has huge love for the story and its details. I'm sure it is autobiographical to a large extent; if it's not, he's even more of a genius.

All this and just a delight to read.

So you may be wondering: if I own the book (and I don't own many books, in proportion to how many I read) why haven't I read it before?

The answer: my mother loved it. Somehow, somewhere in my teenage years, I got all prickly about wanting to be different from my mom. (Maybe it's an oldest daughter thing.) I remember having to sing alto whenever she sang soprano, for example—or the opposite, since she alternated parts with each verse. So some time during this very irritating phase of mine, my mother tried to get me to read this book. I refused. Not JUST because she wanted me to read it; it also looked very boring (and still does) and starts off very slowly. But a lot of it was because she loved it so much.

This is me baring my pitiful teenage soul with it's small, cold heart.

Let me just say right here that my mother was always a very sweet, guileless person, full of enthusiasm and love for the world. Just the kind of thing that rubs a grumpy teenager, with her superior "weight of the world" moodiness ala J. D. Salinger, wrong.

Just the kind of thing that makes me weep for her, and for my coldness towards her and her passions, now.

And who was the loser? I was, of course. And still am, in some ways. But I don't doubt that she felt it too sometimes, and suffered for it. I'm sorry, Mom.

In fact, that was the hardest thing about losing her when I did (I was 22). I felt that by then I had outgrown my childish snootiness and was possibly turning into a likeable and open-hearted person—but that was just when she was beginning to check out of here, physically and then mentally and, finally, emotionally. So she died, and I never found out from her to my satisfaction whether she forgave me for having been a teenager, and whether she thought I might be improving.

Anyway, when she left I inherited her book. And to wrap up this psychoanalysis, I need to say this, to you and to her: I love this book. It is dear and sweet and funny and makes me weep. I even like the silly notes she scribbled in the margins, like "universality" and "imagery" and "good!" (Well, I don't like them so much, but I forgive her for them.) And one other thing I must say: happy birthday, Mom. Because today happens to be her fifty-seventh birthday.

And I really, really miss her today. (I admit it. Being sick always makes me miss her more, too.)

I love you Mom. I hope you're up there reading everything so you can pass me some good ones someday.

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p.s. On a whole nother subject:

It's Christmas around here, and I'm not talking about the tree that Rog and kids are slaving away at downstairs. I'm talking about the bag of chic flicks my cool neighbor Sue just brought over for me to watch: Mansfield Park, Wives and Daughters, Ideal Husband, Importance of Being Ernest, Emma, Room With a View (nudie edition, I believe), new Pride & Prejudice (which I like despite Keira).

And more evidence that it is Christmas: Kathy S. felt sorry for me that I didn't get Thanksgiving dinner and showed up with a pumpkin pie that she had just baked just for me!!!!! It was even still warm! With a can of whipped cream to go with it!!!! Am I lucky, or what?

Hey, I'm not even embarrassed to admit that there are perks to hanging out in bed all the time. You don't begrudge me a little enjoyment, do you?

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p.p.s. In case you were wondering, yes, I really did mail copies of that letter to all those BYU people about an MFA program. And I got an answer today. Lance Larsen e-mailed to inform me that they are serious about trying to get one, and maybe there will be good news in a year or so. I wrote back to tell him I look forward to the possibility of studying with him in a few years. (Let's see . . . Peter will be in first grade in 2009 . . . now, if I could just find $20,000 lying around . . .)

8 comments:

c jane said...

How Green Was My Valley is my favorite novel of all time. I read it every five years or so and find something new every time.
Mothers are amazing no matter where they are. You obviously have a wonderful one!

Jennifer B said...

I love your mom! She was wonderful to me. When I met her, I was immediately impressed with her beautiful smile. I think you have the same one.

Merry Christmas and good luck on finding that $20K. Where there's a will . . .

Jen B said...

p.s.

Like your new look.

Cute pic. Pretty colors.

Nice.

Marj said...

Back when we were 22 I didn't realize how young your mom was when she died but now that we are pushing 40 I realize how young she really was. And notice I said "we" are pushing 40. I'm not THAT much older than you, you know.

I will put that book on my to read list. I'm sorry you are feeling so icky. Get well soon!!

Darlene said...

Courtney,

I guess I'll have to come to you for book recommendations from now on.

Jen,

Whose will? Where's the will? Did someone leave me something in their will?

(I shouldn't complain. My mom DID leave me this book, after all.)

Marj,

The first step is to accept what you can't change, old lady. You are, my dear, vastly older than I. (Possibly more mature, too. I'm not sure though.)

Angela Hallstrom said...

Darlene,
I haven't visited your blog for a while and reading it makes me jealous. It's so much more introspective and beautifully written than mine :-). I think it's because you're so open and real all the time--you're willing to write about doubts, fears, regrets . . . all the good stuff. I've only been blogging for a couple of months now, and it's more been a "family" type blog that I started half under duress after requests from far flung members of my clan who wanted updates about our life. But mine's so chatty and surfacey. (Like the journal you know your parents are going to read.) Wish I could be more like you.
Good on ya for the MFA letters to the Y. I hope hope hope they get something going there. I also noticed a mention in a previous entry about _The Bonds That Make Us Free_. Another similarity between the two of us: I love that book. I took a course from Terry Warner in 1991 at the Y when the book was in manuscript form and he and that book truly changed the way I look at life. Anyway, keep writing this beautiful blog . . . and hope you feel better soon.
Angela

Maralise said...

student loans. they're worth it.

queen serene said...

I was awful to my bubbly mom too, and I only grew up in that regard this past year.

Your mom is up there having a great time. The last thing she would want is for you to feel badly about how you were as a teen, or anything else, for that matter.

I've gotta read your book when you're done!