As it’s Mother’s Day today (at least in our corner of the world) this week I’m going to say another thanks to my mum for passing on her love of books to me. One of my earliest blog posts was about books as presents and there I highlighted a couple of the books she’s given me over the years. But my bookish memories of my mum don’t stop there.
When I started school I could already read and by the end of the first school term I had read all the set books for that year and the next two. My mum still talks about being called into the school and being begged by the nuns to find a way to get me some more books because I’d read everything they had. From that point on my mum and I started our weekly tradition of a visit to the local Institute Library on Saturday mornings.
Here in Australia (and the UK too but I don’t know about other places) before free public libraries there were private ones run by Mechanics’ Institutes (also known as Working Mens’ Institutes). These organisations were created to provide education and lectures to working men and many, including our local one, ran a library that books could be borrowed from for a small annual fee. I don’t think there are any Institutes still functioning in my state but in Melbourne the Mechanics’ Institute of Victioria (with its library The Athenaeum) has been going strong since 1839.
Through my mum and the local Institute I was introduced to the seemingly never-ending offerings from Enid Blyton, The Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew and many others. As you can see my preference for crime fiction started early. I also read my first ‘adult’ (as in not writte for kids not as in full of nude people) books thanks to the Institute and can still remember how wonderful and grown up I felt when my mum announced I was ready for Edgar Allan Poe.
Eventually of course I could go to the library on my own and I loved having my independence but mum and I have continued to talk about the books we read. When I lived in another state or was overseas mum’s care packages would always contain books and chocolate. Today we swap books, give each other recommendations and we always watch the First Tuesday Book Club (either in the same house or we sit in our respective homes and talk on the phone while watching). We usually end up arguing (either with each other or the television) but in a good, comforting way.
In some way or another lots of my best memories involve my mum, a book or both together and so for that, and the million other reasons I haven’t articulated here, I hope mum has a good day today. She’s always loved finger food (appetizers) more than main meals (entreés) and now, at 81, she says she’s earned the right to eat what she likes. So for today’s lunch I’ve made a swag of her favourite finger food and we’re not having a main meal at all. And at some point we’ll start talking about books without even realising it.