My writer mom worked as the editor of our local newspaper, covering news all over the county. If a reporter couldn’t make it to an event, Mom would grab her camera, reporter’s pad, and pen—and quite often her daughter—to capture the news herself.
This meant that whether I wanted to or not, I visited sporting events, live nativity scenes, church bazaars, festivals, fairs, horse pulls, pie-eating contests, and a lot of parades. Most kids would relish frequent outings to festivals and fairs, but apparently I grew tired of being dragged from town to town. Even though it was an era when the Girl Scouts and local celebrities riding in Model T cars or standing on floats would heave generous gobs of candy to the spectators, apparently I moaned one time, “Not another parade!” Ah, what a cross I had to bear!
When she was a child, her dream never wavered: she wanted to write. Mom majored in journalism at university and worked for years at our metropolitan newspaper, The Indianapolis Star, as a writer, editor and columnist. Her work in the lifestyle department allowed her to meet and interview movie stars as they came through town for a show or event. I always enjoyed telling my friends, “My mom met the woman who plays Ethel on I Love Lucy.” Mom said Vivian Vance was gracious and charming—one of her favorite interviews. And one of the most challenging? Jack Palance.
But continuing to work full-time at the Star became a challenge when my brother was born. When I came along four years later, Mom adjusted her writing life to accommodate motherhood … to accommodate me.
She gave up her work at the Star to take that position at the county newspaper in order to be available to her children; she gave up being the journalist she wanted to be, in order to be the mom she wanted to be. She could have been interviewing movie stars. Instead, Mom stood all day on Mondays, scrambling to get the county paper ready, making editorial decisions about which photo of the fair queen should make the front page, trimming school lunch schedules with scissors and pasting down stories of council meetings and road construction.
But because Mom didn’t drive downtown to Indianapolis—because she was willing to work hard at a less prestigious job that was flexible and kept her close by—she was there to cheer me on at softball games and track meets. She could see my plays and band concerts.
She was around for school award ceremonies where I received some minor recognition—nothing newsworthy that would draw a reporter, but Mom would come … as a mom.
When I was little, I woke up early to watch morning kids’ shows, which would have been limited to Captain Kangaroo, Sesame Street, and a few cartoons. Mom says one morning I slipped into her bedroom in my jammies and asked, “Mommy, can you watch car-coons with me?”
Touched that I requested her presence, she dragged herself out of bed, pulled on a robe, shuffled into the living room, and eased herself onto the green vinyl chair as I snuggled down on her lap.
After a few minutes, I chirped, “That’s good, Mommy. You can go back to bed. The chair’s all warmed up now.”
For a lot of women, it takes becoming a mother to appreciate their mothers. It takes a humbling vinyl chair moment to realize everything our moms put up with.
Now I’m attempting the same thing.
I’ve grown to appreciate the challenges she faced to make her life work. Mom knows all about “imperfect conditions.” I think I finally feel the pang of those compromises she made, of her grief at the loss of a position that really fit who she was as a writer in order to choose a life that allowed her to be there.
And my writer mom has celebrated the life I’ve chosen, which is also the life of a writer-mom, seeking a both/and instead of an either/or life.
Thanks for modeling how to write in the midst of motherhood, Mom. Thanks for being there. Thanks for supporting and celebrating my work while carrying on your own. You deserve a bigger tribute than this, but it’s a start. And it’s…
This bouquet of memories honors my writer mom, who creates a kind of virtual bouquet these days with her camera, shooting the glorious flora (and fauna) of the Low Country.
For more mom-inspired memory bouquets, visit Laura Lynn Brown, author of Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories and follow her #mombouquet tour (now through Mother’s Day) via social media channels.
(Post modified from the archives)