Roaring Stories ran a Mother’s Day book giveaway competition earlier this week, with a signed copy of Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood as the coveted prize. To enter, we asked people to ‘let us know something special about their mum relating to books and/or reading’.
We got so many amazing entries (some of which made us tear up a little!), we decided to seek permission to publish them here. For sharing these beautiful stories about the importance of books and reading in a family, we also gave those entrants a $10 Roaring Stories voucher as thanks.
Much love to all mums this Mother’s Day!
My mother, who died three months ago, had more books than anyone I’ve ever come across. Every room was lined with bookshelves and she could remember the plots of them all. After she had a stroke, she still always had a book in her hand (she re-read all her ‘easy’ Agatha Christies!) but I was worried she couldn’t actually read the words anymore. I tested her though… I was reading We Were the Mulvaneys and showed her the cover… She said ‘Oh, Joyce Carol Oates. I haven’t read that!’ What a wonderful relief!
My mum, Phyllis, was born on a farm in New Zealand, and first worked as a nurse, and later, after she had emigrated to Australia and married my father, as a shopkeeper. Although she had left school at the around age of 15 she was, throughout her entire life, a very avid reader, and also a deep thinker. She was the source of many of the books that I read as a boy.
After she had suffered a stroke in her early 90s, she asked me, as her oldest child, to take the treasured copy of Henry Lawson’s poems that she always kept on her mantelpiece. But not wanting to accept the reality of her eventual mortality, I refused to take it, and told her that she would no doubt want to read from it again many more times before she reached 100. She actually did so on a number of occasions following that, but died from a second stroke a couple of years later.
After the splendid wake that we held for her in her house (she would have loved to have been there for it, with all of her best friends and family around her!), I went to retrieve the book, but it was gone. My sister said that mum had given it to a small Indonesian boy, the son of one of her immigrant friends who had visited her shortly before she died. And in a way I was very happy with this outcome. Although it would have been a very nice keepsake of her, I had already read and enjoyed most of Henry Lawson’s poems over the last 60 years or so, and this young boy needed it more than I did, as he is the new generation of us ‘True Australians’.
My Mum not only instilled in me a love of reading but has been the source of inspiration for our family dogs’ literary names.
She was reading Moby Dick when we got our first miniature schnauzer. Because he was small and black and immediately an object of worship in our house, my mother realised ‘Yojo’ – the name of the cannibal Queequeg’s idol – would be very fitting after reading this passage where Herman Melville chooses to highlight that, amidst all the wonders on board the whaling ship, your eye can’t help but be drawn to Yojo:
Had you stepped on board the Pequod at a certain juncture of this post-mortemizing of the whale; and had you strolled forward nigh the windlass, pretty sure am I that you would have scanned with no small curiosity a very strange, enigmatical object, which you would have seen there, lying along lengthwise in the lee scuppers. Not the wondrous cistern in the whale’s huge head; not the prodigy of his unhinged lower jaw; not the miracle of his symmetrical tail; none of these would so surprise you, as half a glimpse of that unaccountable cone,—longer than a Kentuckian is tall, nigh a foot in diameter at the base, and jet-black as Yojo, the ebony idol of Queequeg. And an idol, indeed, it is; or, rather, in old times, its likeness was. Such an idol as that found in the secret groves of Queen Maachah in Judea; and for worshipping which, King Asa, her son, did depose her, and destroyed the idol, and burnt it for an abomination at the brook Kedron, as darkly set forth in the 15th chapter of the First Book of Kings.
We got our second miniature schnauzer when my mother was reading Anna Karenina and was so taken by Chapter 26, which is told from Levin’s dog Laska’s poking of view. Laska is much more intelligent than her owner and has to trick him into following her hunting instincts rather than his. Our schnauzer Laska has lived up to her literary counterpart, always imposing her will over us humans.
I love getting to speak about these great passages of literature every time someone asked our dogs’ names – with all credit going to my Mum.
I left home at 15 to join the British Army. Every week my Mum would send me a box of goodies. In my very first box, there was a copy of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. That book has had a lasting impact on me.
When I was a child (decades ago), my Mum would always buy me a book on Wednesdays. It was our special Wednesday thing. We would have lime milkshakes and go to the bookstore, after school. When Mum was dying she gave me Paul Wilson’s The Little Book Of Calm. Mum told me not to worry about anything, as she would always be with me. We held hands. We both wanted to cry, but there was a need to show each other strength!