When I Think About Writing

When I think about writing, I think about both of my parents. Today is my mother’s birthday, although she is no longer with us. My mother was an avid reader. She read the morning paper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with breakfast and often did the crossword puzzle. She read, like I do, when she was waiting anywhere, often after dinner and when she went to bed.

She liked to read to us when we were young, but I soon wanted to read for myself.

We subscribed to several magazines over the years including US News and World Report, Better Homes and Gardens and several horse magazines. She belonged to the Book of the Month Club for many years and read all of their selections. In later years, she mostly read mysteries. I was surprised to learn she read Stephen King, saying that even though she was not really a horror fan, he was such a good writer.

As far as I know, other than letters (in an age when people wrote letters), she didn’t do any other writing. But she certainly could have. She was a strict grammarian and I learned at an early age to say, “This is she,” or, “It is I.”

I only asked for her critique of my writing once. We had been assigned, in fourth grade I believe, to write an autobiography. She was not pleased that I included the fact she was divorced. I was simply trying to explain why my half-brother had a different name (and a different father). She said that was none of anyone’s business and since I attended a Catholic girls school, I later understood why she might not want that to be public knowledge. As a result of her criticism, I never showed her any more of my writing.

My father wrote letters and once a humorous poem about a difficult construction project. He read the paper, magazines, and for enjoyment, Louis L’ Amour westerns. His favorite television shows were “Gunsmoke” and “Rawhide”, so his choice of reading material wasn’t surprising. He, too, was a grammarian. He would dictate business letters for me to type and later let me word them and he would check them.

The Sisters of Mercy who taught me were all well-educated and very clear in teaching us grammar based on diagramming sentences, something I think I could still do in my sleep.

But anyway, Happy Birthday, Mother, and thanks for the grammar and the reading example, both have served me well. And I wish you could read my mysteries, although maybe you have and are critiquing them as I write.