Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday Soliloquy-- For Mom

I've spoken a great deal about the two greatest reading influences of my life in these Saturday posts. If not for my grandmother and my mother, would I be the passionate reader that I am today? Probably not.'s fitting on the Saturday before Mother's Day to spotlight these most important women in my life.

The photo you see today is of my very first Christmas. Yours Truly is sitting in the middle, of course; my Dad is on the left; my Mom on the right. At the time, my mother was hospitalized in a sanitarium because she had tuberculosis. My father was home on leave from the Navy. The hospital administrators let us celebrate Christmas in Mom's room. In little more than four months, my nineteen-year-old father would be dead, and Mom would be faced with raising me solo. She supplemented her widow's pension with a variety of part-time jobs that allowed her as much time with me as possible. Due to her hospitalization, I'd spent the first year of my life being raised by other people. Mom had no intentions of ever having that happen again.

As many of you already know, one of her part-time jobs was as the librarian of our small farm town. When I turned sixteen, she started taking night classes at a nearby community college. One of the classes she took was Creative Writing, and it's one of her short stories that I'd like to share with all of you.

Memories Are Made of This

When I was a small child, the Depression was still very much with us. The Depression lasted until the World War II boom in my hometown. There were two classes of people in those years: the haves and the have-nots. I belonged to the second group. We were lucky to have the necessities, let alone any frills.

One thing we did have was an old radio that my grandfather had rescued for us from an old junk pile. I can remember listening to that beat-up old wreck in the evening. My mother and I would sit in the dark and listen to one of our very favorite programs, "I Love a Mystery". We sat in the dark because you didn't have the lights and the radio on at the same time. That would have been an extravagance when you were in the "modest" circumstances we were in.

The prologue to that program is what sticks with me, at least the pictures that the sound effects drew in my mind. My imagination scared me worse than any scriptwriter could have. My imagination painted the picture of an old wizened man cackling a maniacal laugh. His crazy laughter came from the depths of a crumbling mansion that clung to a cliff by the sea. The old hulk was surrounded by dead trees, sea-sprayed rocks, and undergrowth that seemed to strangle anything that showed promise of beauty. Thunder and lightning lashed the old house. Shutters banged about empty, staring windows. Every once in a while a greenish light flickered and cast the shadow of a bent figure on the broken glass of a tower window. The scene was completed by the howls of a wolf...or was it a wolf?

I started out sitting on the floor holding on to Mom's leg, smiling in anticipation. I ended up in Mom's lap holding on for dear life, hair standing out on the back of my neck, broken out in goose flesh, trying to watch in all directions at the same time to make sure that no person or thing crept up on us.

I remember many things of those years. I remember how deliciously scared I was listening to that old radio show. I also remember how safe I felt sitting there in my mother's lap. There are many things I won't and don't miss from those years, but I do miss that old radio, and I miss "I Love a Mystery". Most of all I miss my mother's lap, and that warm feeling of being safe from all the monsters and things that go "bump" in the night.

© 1973 Glenore Brookshier Cole

Hopefully all of you had a monster-proof Mommy's lap in which to climb. I know I did, and so did my mother, as you know after reading Mom's story. How many of you loved scaring yourself with a book or long as you were within touching distance of your mother? I know I did, and I'll tell you about one of those times tomorrow. Mother's Day is perhaps the most difficult day of the year for me because I no longer have these two women around to spoil. The least I can do is share some of my memories about them!


  1. What a lovely tribute to your mum and grandmother Cathy. I too got my love of reading from my mum so I can understand your feelings. And yes I did used to read scary books knowing that mum was in the next room and would come running if things got a bit too awful. We had 'modest circumstances' too but mum always found a way to pay the annual fee for belonging to the local institute (which was what we had prior to free public libraries here). If my dad grumbled (he's a voracious reader of newspapers but never books) she'd say "Books are a necessity not a luxury" and that would be the end of that argument :)

    I do appreciate that I'm lucky enough to still have my mum around to spoil tomorrow and do intend to. I hope you can enjoy your fantastic memories of your mum and not be too sad.

  2. Thank you for this look into your life and your wonderful mother :)

    I certainly had a monster-proof Mommy (still have her, but have not tried her lap for some years ;))
    The only time I had to cope with horror on my own was a night when my parents and my uncle and aunt were watching "The Hound of the Baskervilles". They had told me and my cousins that we couldn´t watch it because it was too scary, but we sneeked into the semi-dark living-room and hid under the armchairs until our hair stood on end. I dreamed about that horrible dog for weeks but dared not tell my mother that I had seen it :D

  3. That is a wonderful story. And having a monster-proof mommy's lap was one of the best things about childhood. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. You need to write a memoir.

  5. What a wonderful tribute to your mother!! I try to be a mother like that with my kids - trying to instill the love of books at an early age. I didn't have that growing up - I buried myself in books because I was so shy and it was so hard for me to make friends. I had all the friends I needed inside my treasured books.

    I look forward to your post tomorrow.

  6. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your mother with us. Thinking of you this Mother's Day ...

  7. Lovely, lovely post! I enjoyed getting to know you and your family better. We should all take a lesson from your mother: take the time to write down our precious memories for the next generation to enjoy.

  8. A beautiful post and wonderful story. I know where you get your writing talent from. Tomorrow will be bittersweet, but concentrate on the sweet.

  9. Thanks for sharing your mom's story with us. She was a good writer as well as a wonderful mom.

    Her story sparked a memory of mine. I was sixteen I think. My friend and I were alone in her house, watching a movie that scared the daylights out of us. Probably something like the Monster from the Black Lagoon. When it was time for bed, and her parents still weren't home, we plucked up the courage to see each other to our rooms. We stood back to back, linked arms and travelled along the corridor that way, with one to watch ahead and one to watch behind. Only then we had to come back up the corridor to the other room, to check for monsters there as well. Not sure how long this went on, until finally I remember we made a break for it and each ran to our rooms and banged the doors!

  10. Bernadette--Your own mum sounds fantastic, and I'm glad you're going to spoil her on Mother's Day! The pain of losing my mother and grandmother has lessened over the years. When I think of them, I think of them with love and happiness.

    Dorte--One of the worst things about getting older and bigger is not being able to climb up into that monster-proof lap!

    You're welcome, Rhapsody!

    Kathy--I just might be doing post at a time.

    Kara--I also buried myself in books because I was extremely shy. For various reasons the kids at school spent a lot of time making fun of me. My book friends never did.

    Thank you, B&B's Mommy. I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day!

    Beth--Now that they've been gone for a while, it's much much easier to concentrate on the Sweet.

    Susan--I can just picture the two of you doing that! LOL Thanks so much for sharing that with us!

  11. Thanks Cathy for sharing your mother's story. I see that you and your mom share both the love of reading and writing.

    Reading her story of listening to the radio took me back to my childhood in the '40s. Those stories certainly sparked our imaginations. My favorites were The Green Hornet and The Buster Brown Show. Whew, that was a few years ago.

  12. Cathy,

    Thank you for sharing that. It was very nice to read. :-)

    No lap to crawl into here.

    It was another "first". I kept thinking where I normally am on Mothers Day.

    Can't wait to hear how your's went.


  13. I love your description of listening to the radio. I can still remember laying in bed and listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater, hosted by Himan Brown, every weeknight from 10:07 to 11pm. It opened with a wonderfully creepy creaking door noise. I recently found these episodes posted online and have been enjoying them once again. There is something special about having to create the images in your own head. Such fantastic memories.

  14. Margot--When I discovered that they started putting those old radio shows on cassette, I bought Mom as many as I could get of "I Love a Mystery".

    Mike--I was thinking of you, too. *HUGS* I'm not a Mommy, so I went to work, came home, blogged, and read.

    Terri--In buying Mom the cassettes of the old radio shows, I started listening to them and fell in love. So much better when your imagination sets the scene!


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