Mom was a character. She grew up in Boston, was a debutante, went to exclusive grammar and secondary schools. and proceeded to flunk out of two colleges because she preferred the party life.
She met Dad and left all of that excitement for a culture that was diametrically opposed to her known life. Mom knew she was marrying a Methodist preacher and knew they were moving to a small town in Iowa, but nothing prepared her for reality. Gravity, Iowa, a small town of 200 busybody old ladies (exaggeration, but only a little), wasn’t prepared for her either. All of a sudden, this poor twenty year old party girl was the local preacher’s wife. And before she knew it, she was a mom, too. Then, she was a mom twice more after that.
There are so many stories to tell about her transition from Boston to Iowa, but this morning I was thinking about books and … well … bathrooms.
Mom was a brilliant woman. Flunking out of college had nothing to do with that, it had everything to do with her attitude. When she finally decided to finish her degree, she put her high school and college aged kids to shame. It was difficult trying to justify anything other than an A when that’s all she brought home. High expectations at our house – let me tell you.
She read everything and could discuss the deepest and most profound novels, as well as complete trash, with any single person alive. Dad and Mom had long discussions on books they’d read. He read quite a bit more slowly than she did, Dad was always reading something and his mind just trapped that information.
With three kids, Mom was always trying to find time to read. When we finally grew old enough to take on chores around the house, her life got a whole lot better. She could send us off to work and hide somewhere – reading.
But when we were very little, there weren’t a lot of places Mom could hide and get away with it … except the bathroom. We weren’t allowed to bother her in there. She would take a book in, lock the door, and stay. The three of us would play outside the bathroom door so she knew just where we were. If we got too noisy or started messing with each other, she’d growl at us and tell us to stop. We always did – punishment that came because Mom didn’t have a chance to read wasn’t pleasant.
Dad always knew that if he couldn’t find her, the first place to look was the bathroom – she’d be in there hiding from the world – with a good book. She always said it was the most comfortable seat in the house – and for her, it probably was, because no one else was trying to occupy it at the same time.
Everything in Mom’s life was geared toward finding time to read. Dad accused her of being lazy because she found creative and innovative ways to get chores done quickly. She told him she was smarter than the average person and why waste time doing chores when she could be reading?
That love of reading was something both of my parents passed down to their kids. For mom it was more than just ‘love,’ it was almost a desperation to read. It nearly killed her to think that there might be words out there she wouldn’t have time to discover. So wherever she was, whatever she was doing … even if it was hiding in the bathroom from three children … Mom was reading.
Our memories of her are filled with many wild and woolly things, but mostly we remember her passion for words, stories and books. And when one of us walks into the bathroom with a book or a Kindle, it’s because we learned that’s where you can read in privacy!