March 4, 2010

Chapter One

Hundreds of books…where to start? Do I start at the very beginning? Do I start at the very end? Most recent and then work my way backwards? The truth of the matter is the thought of picking up one of my mom’s books is overwhelming. Not because there are so many of them…but because of what they represent.

Picture it…7 year old girl, blonde, curly hair. Bare feet, jammies on, standing on a cold hardwood floor. This is my livingroom from my childhood home. We sat at the lower end of the middle class scale. Most families in our neighbourhood did. I’m seeking my mom’s attention. Some urgent, yet probably not urgent at all, need has come up. There sits my mom. At the end of the couch, a brown woven, scratchy material. She’s in her late twenties. Wearing a pair of comfortable jeans, her legs are crossed with her feet resting on the dark brown wood coffee table. Beside her on the table sits a cup of steaming coffee or tea. Mingling with the steam from the drink is the smoke streaming up from the cigarette perched between her fingers. She’s looking down into her lap…where sits a book. She’s deep into the book. Doesn’t look up when I beg for her attention. Simply lets me know that when she’s done this chapter she’ll be available to me again. “How selfish” I think. Engrossed in a book…ignoring me. And so begins my relationship with the enormous bookcases full of attention seeking books. No wonder I had no desire to read them!

I know that whichever book I choose, it will be the “right” choice. I look around at my options and my eyes zero in on a collection I know well. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone novels. I know nothing of the storylines encased in the books. All I know is every Christmas the perfect gift from my mother was the next in the alphabet titled series…”A is for Alibi” “B is for Burgular”, right through to “T is for Tresspass”. This is where my mom’s collection ends. Every year a new letter. I don’t really know how Sue Grafton managed to come up with the titles let alone the storylines!

I’ve been looking at the spines of those books for decades. When I pull out “A is for Alibi” I take a look at the back of the jacket. I am taken aback. There’s a picture of Sue Grafton. She looks just like my mom. The book is from the eighties and back then my mom looked almost exactly like this woman. Fluffy hair, worn jeans, comfy sweater a real casual attitude in her stance. I was starting to see how difficult this task was going to be…and how interesting. Was my mom drawn to this author because she was a similar “kind” of woman? What about the books themselves.

Well, I made it through the first book in about a week. Burned my way through to the letter “I” in about two months. Kinsey Millhone, Grafton’s main character, is a young private investigator, living in the eighties. She lives on her own in a renovated garage…bachelor apartment. Her adventures lead her into troubles with love and crime. She’s quite remarkable. I love that she tracks down information using the microfiche at the library, and she’s in deep trouble when she can’t find a payphone to call for help. Able to handle the most difficult clients and assailants. Kinsey has a soft vulnerable side too. She’s intelligent and tough…a little “rough around the edges”. But she always has the best of intentions. I can see why my mother was attracted to this character.

I was also quickly realizing that my mom wasn’t “selfish” sitting on the couch reading deeply. As my girls dance and sing around me, while I try to finish each sentence…actually retain some of the information. I now understand those minutes reading were her little escapes. It is hard being a stay at home mom. Although this will sound strange…it’s very lonely at times. All the love from my girls and I still long for adult conversations. As annoying as a co-worker can be, at least they know how to carry on a conversation. Sure it’s about the latest reality show, or their ridiculous boyfriend. Better that then trying to decide which character I want to pretend to be “Donna” or “Sophie” from Mamma Mia! So, I’m beginning to understand how these books took my mom away, if for a few minutes. She needed the break. Thanks Kinsey Millhone and Sue Grafton for taking me away for a few hours a day too.

What will I read next????


  1. Jen - both of your entries are wonderfully written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and didn't want them to end! I will definitely be following you. I hope your journey is rewarding.


  2. Jennifer,
    You've got me hooked! I look forward to following your blog. Very much like you and your Mom, I'm always happy to find "little escapes". I can already tell, your blog & journey will be a good place to find myself!
    Big hugs,

  3. Hi Jennifer:

    What a wonderful idea! Reading was one of the things your Mom and I had in common. I will certainly continue to follow your blog and look forward to the next one.

    Your Mom would be so proud of you.

  4. Hi Jennifer
    I cannot tell you how much this blog touched my heart. I imagine your Mom just beaming from above while you are writing this terrific blog. I commend you for having such a brilliant idea. I know that you will inspire others as they follow you along on your journey of going through all your Moms books. I hope you find a bit of her in each story. You truly are an inspiration to Mothers everywhere.
    Best of luck.

  5. Oh Jen - reading. What a wonderful world that is.
    I read far too much - from mysteries to stories of women in the middle east which I love and hate.
    Kathy Reichs books on forensics facinate me. I love to read about far off lands and ideas.
    Reading takes us to that place in our minds that is our own.
    Your mom had such a grasp on life around her, no doubt partly from all her reading.
    I am so proud of the woman you have become and I don't have to tell you that Gail is proud too.
    What you are doing is very brave and I am sure will be greatly rewarding.
    love Rose

  6. Hi Jen ,
    I love this. The first two entires of your blog are written wonderfully. My mother also read often and I can still hear her clear as a bell saying "mmmm just a minute" when I too wanted her attention. This journey of yours brings a warm feeling to my heart and I am thankful you have let me tag along. Enjoy!!! Allyson

  7. Hi Jen,

    I've just returned from our vacation and was drawn in by your blog. I never knew you were such an intriguing writer.

    I remember numerous conversations I had with your Mom over the murder/mystery shows we loved on TV. Now I may just have to borrow some of her you've gotten me hooked.

    I can't wait to read of the insights you'll discover as you continue.

    Cheers to Stay at home Mom's & great books!


  8. Thanks for inviting me to share in your reading journey! What a wonderful way to connect to your mum. We are all avid readers in our home and enjoy many different books. I've never really thought about what our reading choices say about us! Enjoy your reading, and please share any gems that you may find.