It was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s epitaph to her 97 year old mother that got me to thinking about my mother’s passion for writing and just how I would hope she will be remembered by family and friends some day…Ms. Dowd said that “someone who wants to write will find a way to write. And someone who wants to change the world can do it without a big platform or high-profile byline.” I am certain my mother could have said those words; she probably did. I remember her telling me about the 50’s and 60’s a time when penmanship, grammar and writing were of critical importance. In Catholic elementary school the significance of penmanship was stressed by a heavily robed nun pacing the aisles of a dark, muggy classroom snapping a ruler against the palm of her hand. While I attended Catholic school for eight years, I missed out these terminator nuns my mom talked about. In junior high (she didn’t have middle or intermediate school) grammar was mastered with memorization techniques and sentence diagramming. By the time she reached high school, I know she was well on her way to sophisticated research (MLA) papers without the ease of cutting and pasting or borrowing text from the World Wide Web!
I believe that my mother’s writing career probably began in the mid 60’s when she was sending off letters to President Lyndon B. Johnson with anti-war sentiments. Mother was also writing to a crocked Mayor Richard J. Daley about a city waging a war against a democratic party. Today, a gazillion kid-years later, I can tell you that “Mom writes out hundreds of recipes, adding notations of her own. She is always coming up with quotes or her writings are appearing in some op ed section of the local papers.” Perhaps they will say that Charlene was always writing something… it was a way for her to wage war without leaving her chaise lounge and writing provided a space to create a peaceful place in her world. Something or someone was always getting her hot under the collar and writing an unsent letter was a way to vent and diffuse her anger, disappointment or dislike for a person’s decision or action. She should be remembered for always expressing her gratitude to someone for something, for she got a great deal of satisfaction from building up other people.
I recall a time not too long ago when she got upset with this columnist from the local paper who wrote a simple article about how difficult it is to discern true emotion over the internet. Before the end of his piece she made a point to remind the writer that before i-pods, blackberries, television, and even radio… there was print. The successful piece, be it book or article has always been successful in both providing emotion packed words and eliciting emotions. Alright, mom, chill.
Well, with mom gone now… things will never be the same. Especially since she took pens, notepads, and oh yeah her laptop with her to heaven!