How Books Helped Shape My Relationship With My Mother
One of the strongest relationships there can be is the one between a mother and daughter. It's a powerful bond that, thanks to psychology or biology or simply love, shapes women's lives from the day they are born, and then again the day they give birth, until the day they die, whether it's a positive relationship or a toxic one.
Now that I am in my mid-20s, I see my relationship with my own mother changing and growing as we do, but no matter how much change there is, there will always be those few special things that hold us together. We will always love blasting Bonnie Raitt's version of "Black Velvet" with the windows down in the car on hot summer days, she will always love teaching me new recipes and I will always love learning them, and we will always share our passion for reading with one another, because ever since I was that little girl who sat next to her on the couch, pretending to read her romance novels with her, books have helped shape my relationship with my mom.
Books have always been a big part of our mother-daughter relationship, and not just the picture books from bedtime either. Of course I remember my mom reading to me as a kid, but what really brought her and I closer was our shared love for books and not our nightly reading routine. My mom is a voracious reader to say the least, and ever since I can remember, she has carried a book around in her purse. When I was old enough to need a purse myself, I started doing the same thing. My mom always read before she went to bed, and once I could read on my own, I stayed up late doing it, too — that is, until she'd come in and tell me to put the book down. "But mom," I can still hear myself saying, "I'm just getting to the good part! You know what I mean, don't you?" She was a reader, so I always knew just how to get her to let me finish one more chapter. She's a sucker for a good story as much as I am.
Because my mom knew I loved reading as much as she did, she started an unofficial book club between her and me. While other kids in my middle school were reading The Babysitter's Club , I was nose deep in the latest Mary Higgins Clark paperback, racing to the end so I could discuss it with my mother over breakfast. Every time she handed me a new book and told me I'd like it, I knew she'd be right. My mom just knew me, and she trusted me, too. She trusted me to be smart about what I was reading, and she trusted me to be mature enough to handle it. When it came to the books she'd give me, she treated me like an adult, and it grew in me a deeper respect and admiration for the woman who made me believe I wasn't just a silly little girl. In her eyes, I was a young woman, and so I became one in my own eyes, too.
When I was in high school, my mom agreed to let me fly to Arizona by myself to visit a friend at ASU. It certainly wasn't the first time I would be away from home without my parents — I had spent vacations with friends and their families, and I flew to Florida with my uncle, aunt, and cousin each winter — but it was going to be the first time I would be traveling alone. My mom thought I was brave, but the whole time I knew she was the brave one, letting me go off on my own. Before I left her at security and headed to my gate, she handed me a copy of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money , and told me to read it on the plane. When I called to tell her I made it, she said, I could tell her what I thought of the book. Now, this wasn't a book about a deep mother-daughter relationship or about womanhood or about growing up. It was a hilarious book about the shenanigans of an ammeter bounty hunter in New Jersey, and it made me laugh so hard during my entire flight from Boston to Phoenix that I didn't have a chance to be nervous about my first solo trip. When I landed, I did call her, just like I promised, we didn't exchange I miss yous, but we did talk about our favorite part of the book. Turns out, we liked a lot of the same parts.
When I went away to college, I promised to stay in touch, but like all self-absorbed teenagers just granted new freedoms, I was terrible at picking up the phone. My mom never got mad at me for my periods of radio silence, because she knew I was trying to live my own life, but she'd occasionally leave me voicemails asking me to let her know I was alive. When I finally did call, we catch up about school and family stuff, but she'd usually end the conversation by asking me what I was reading, or if I'd gotten around to reading the book she gave me on my last visit home. Even though we were apart, our book club stayed in tact, and no matter how long we'd go without talking or seeing each other, we always had something to go back to: our books. In fact, when I was home for the holidays one year, we did return to One for the Money when we saw the film adaptation starring Katherine Heigl. Yes, the movie was terrible, but for that one afternoon it was like I never left home. It was like my mom and I were on the couch reading books together again, just like I was a kid.
From the time I used to ask her to read me Are You My Mother? over and over to the time she started giving me book recommendations to now, the time where we still swap books and count down the days until our favorite will be released as a movie, books have been a part of what makes my mom and my relationship what it is. Reading is our shared hobby, books our shared obsession, and each other, our favorite book club buddies. Books have helped shape the close relationship I have with my mom, which just means I have something else to add to the long list I have to thank them for. Or maybe I have to thank my mom for all the books she's shared with me? It's probably a little bit of both, so reading, mom — thank you.