Archive | January, 2012

What book will you read next?

15 Jan

I wish I knew what books my mom read —or if she read books. Actually I know she read Antiques Guides, but that was work and hobby-related. And, she read newspapers and magazines. But, I do not remember her reading books for fun.

This query came about recently when a student in the high school where I work asked me what my favorite books are. As a librarian, I am often asked for book suggestions. Requests range from, “Do you have any books by this author?” to “I have to read a biography for class, would you show me some?” Often, during this process I describe books I have read or wish to read. For some reason, this particular student’s request struck me. It might have been the way she asked or her smile, both of which suggested sincerity and seriousness. For a moment I was moved out of my usual librarian way of thinking (asking what she likes to read, trying to get a sense of her taste) and entered into a casual discussion of books. I felt flattered and was eager to share. She had already read my all-time favorite, Jane Eyre, a few times. Not only did she read my favorite modern novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, a dozen times, she even read the autobiography of Mineko Iwasak, the retired geisha who inspired the author. I added that to my list. Soon our discussion was not about my favorites, but about our favorites. We gave each other ideas of what to read next.

Now that my own children are high school students, I often feel like a mother to the students I work with. They come into the library with voracious appetites for fiction. I marvel at how they read so much when encumbered with heavy homework. And, often students who might wear the label, “not interested in school” borrow books as if addicted to reading.  I appease my envy of their reading lists by imagining that their days are longer than 24 hours! Sometimes I joke that they must be renting the books out to other people, they can’t possibly read so many! Once, one of the students admitted that she borrows some of the books for her mom. For a second I thought about how she was taking books away from reading-obsessed students, but I was impressed with her desire to enable her mom’s reading passion.

All of this makes me wonder if my mom missed out on reading for fun or if she was typical of her generation? I know that my friends share books with their moms now. They’ll tell me, “Oh, my mom just finished that one and loved it.” Did their moms habitually read fiction 25 years ago? I often credit Oprah’s Book Club with adding to our society’s obsession with books. Does it follow then that my mom’s generation has more recently become enamored with fiction?

My son and I are now each reading the same book and we often have engaging discussions about books. My daughter and I also share a passion for books. Interestingly, she has a Jane Eyre –ish favorite, its prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea. But that makes sense, their mom is a librarian! When my mom was sick she read self-help books including, Harold Kushner’s Why Bad Things Happen to Good People and Bernie Siegel’s Love, Medicine and Miracles. Assuming pleasure-reading just was not her thing then, I wish my mom could have experienced my passion and maybe even joined me in having a favorite book.

Dancing and Dining In NYC and at Home

1 Jan

Happy and Healthy New Year to YOU!

This past holiday week was filled with celebrations and relaxation and most interestingly, for me, moments of reminiscence. As usual, my flashback to moments with my mom occurred spontaneously.

First, as I was battling traffic in New York City, I drove past the New York Hilton on 6th Avenue and was immediately transported back to the years in which my parents attended the winter CIBS Ball (Cosmetic Industry Buyers and Suppliers Association winter event). I could immediately picture my mom’s ballgowns and shoes. It was an extravagant treat for her to buy a new gown and matching shoes. To me, a wide-eyed child who waited anxiously to see the Miss America Pageant, this ball prep was enormously exciting.  I imagine that she was often filled with anxiety as she chose the right dress and shoes within, I’m sure, a tight budget. She was always worried about being seen in the same dress as a previous year or as another guest. When I was an older teenager, I would insult her to prove a point: “No one cares about what you are wearing each year—they would never remember if you wear the same dress.” No matter what I said, she would never feel confident repeating a dress. I always loved looking through her boxes of fancy shoes. Many were black and some had fancy clips or buttons. I remember one shiny pair of sandals- black patent leather with mirrored heels. And, of course, she chose the perfect make-up, complimented by one of her many Charles of the Ritz lipsticks ( Some years my parents chose to enlist my grandmother’s babysitting service so they could stay overnight after the ball. I was excited by that too—imagining their whole night from party to pajamas. They would come home with a table photo showing all of the fancy dresses and tuxedos.

The other strong recollection I had was my parents’ New Year’s Eve party. Since I allow my imagination to embellish stories, here I envision the party taking place several years in a row. I remember the dark brown and maroon rug being rolled up and placed on one side of the room so they could dance. How exciting it was to watch as our family room was transformed into a party place. Once the party started, I would watch the dancing for a little while, impressed with the adults.  Decades before Dancing with the Stars, adults with and without talent “tore up” my family’s floor.

As I celebrated Hanukkah, enjoyed holiday cheer and anticipated 2012, I enjoyed these random and often elaborate memories. While holidays often create an especially despondent longing for my mom, they also often fill me with warm feelings of how grateful I am to have had and to remember many meaningful moments with my mom. And, I wonder if this happens to everyone.  Do you remember your mom’s holiday events and special moments? Even if they did not directly involve you, what were they like for her and for you?