The first time my mother’s face looked back at me from the mirror, I was shocked. Was I becoming her, with all she did that irked me? Taking over my projects to make them better but no longer mine? Giving me lessons when I just wanted a sympathetic ear?
Today on her birthday I’m recalling traits I cherish. She cultivated my love of reading, taking me to the tiny library in the fire station basement and the annual AAUW book fair. Along with English classics from her Canadian childhood, she pointed me toward stories of children in other cultures, times, and places.
She taught me to relish small wonders. We trekked through fields and forests, delighting in spring trillium and summer wild raspberries. One night she had a group of girls sleep in a barn loft so we could wake early to marvel at the dew on the grass. My memory doesn’t include why we couldn’t see the dew just as well on the lawn at home.
If the face in the mirror shines with love of books, curiosity about lives different from mine, and joy in everyday wonders, it's hard to complain.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.