A BOOK FOR MAMA Mary Beth Magee
I slid my hands across the cardboard carton, savoring the sensation of the shallow paper ripples under my fingers. Although I was anxious to view the contents, I wanted this moment of delicious anticipation to last.
My mother's face filled my mind as I considered how proud she would be if she could have been here. The box held my first solo book, a novel dedicated to the woman who always believed I would succeed as a writer one day: my mother.
Mama sowed a love of words in my heart when I was quite young. Little Golden Books and other children's stories were read aloud to me. Other little girls might have gotten toys or candy as rewards for good behavior at the doctor's office. I earned a new book.
As I became able, I started reading the books back to her. We ran through the children's section of the local library in short order. By the time I was old enough to get my own library card, I was irretrievably hooked on the fluid pattern of words and sentences that make up written matter.
Mama handed me my first library card with great ceremony.
"This card makes you rich," she said. "With this card, you can go anywhere, see anything and learn about anything. You can be whatever you want to be."
She was so right. As I traveled the world through my library card, I began to write my own stories and poems. When the time came to write a dreaded "paper" in school, I celebrated, because writing was fun to me. I wrote book reviews for the student page of the local newspaper and little bits and pieces for other publications. I served on my high school newspaper. Over the years, I wrote training materials for employers, content for the church bulletin and press releases for organizations.
Mama always encouraged my reading and writing, even when she had to fuss at me for burning a pot while I was distracted or losing track of time and not being ready for whatever I was supposed to be ready to do. There weren't many things I could do right in my mother's eyes (typical of many mother-daughter relationships, I suspect), but she always approved of my writing.
"When are you going to write a book?" she asked, and repeated the question over the years.
My work appeared in a lot of places, but not in books for a long time. In 2012, a short essay I wrote was accepted in an anthology book. I was able to show Mama my name in an honest-to-goodness book. I wasn't alone in it, and my name wasn't on the spine, but I was in a book.
A second anthology accepted a story later that year. Mama was thrilled to see my name in the Table of Contents, but wanted to see it on the outside of the book.
In 2013, her health deteriorated, and I lost her. The pain of that loss inspired a poem that found a place in yet another anthology. I could still hear her asking about a book. I got to work in earnest on the novel bouncing around in my subconscious.
In early 2014, a year after I said goodbye to my mother's physical presence, my first solo book was published. The carton holding the first delivery of the volume was the one I stood caressing.
When I opened the box, I spent another moment looking at the array of books before I lifted one from its nest. There on the cover, my name appeared, as it did on the spine. I opened the book to the dedication page for the biggest unveiling of the day.
"Dedicated to the memory of my mother, Mary Catherine."
Thanks to my mother's never-ending encouragement, I have a book on the shelf with my name on the spine and her name on the dedication page. A volume of poetry and one of devotions followed. Another novel is in the works, and anthology appearances multiply. While I wish I could have seen her face as she read the dedication, I take comfort in the fact of her wish being fulfilled.
Thanks for believing in me and my dream, Mama. We made it.
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