I am a voracious reader, to the point of near-addiction and compulsion. This is thanks to my mother.
One of mom’s favorite stories is how she started to teach me words when I was still in the womb. She read the dictionary to me, and we always joked that she said, “A is for agnostic.” This was even more ironic because my mom was extremely religious and faithful.
Throughout my entire life, Mom was the biggest backer of my reading and writing. While some parents looked askance at comic books, Mom believed that if it was something I was reading, what difference did the medium make? When we lived in Jamaica, she used to stop at the store on the way home from work and bring me Superman comic books. Yes, my obsession with Superman is also thanks to my Mom.
Every Saturday when I was growing up, Mom used to take me to the library. She patiently helped me choose books to read, and made suggestions. At one point she picked out the Hardy Boys series for me. I said, “Mom, I can’t read this. It will be too hard to read because it says ‘hard’ in the title.” She laughed and prodded me to read it anyways. I became a huge fan of the series, and read all of them — the vast majority of the books of course purchased by Mom.
My Mom knew I was a writer long before I officially became one. She encouraged me, as a child, teen, and adult, to put down my thoughts on paper. She bought me a typewriter (back when people used such things) and was the sole subscriber to the newspaper I created, diligently reading every article I wrote about God knows what.
Whenever we met people, she’d be the one going on and on about my writing for Media Matters, and every single time she’d push me to show them the photo of me meeting with President Obama at his first round-table with bloggers. She was so proud of me.
Dovetailing with writing was my curiosity about the world, and particularly history. This is also thanks to my Mom. During the years we lived in Maryland, we were constantly going to museums. We’d jump on the subway and head downtown. My cousin Akil, who was less interested in the world of museums, would often have to be bribed with the promise of a hot dog. As we got off the train, he’d ask, “Can I have my hot dog now Aunt Paulette?”
She of course kept her promise.
She’d take us to every museum, making sure we learned the lessons from the exhibits, because to her the world was full of things to learn and especially in a country like America where often the only cost was a subway ride, we should take full advantage of the opportunities afforded to us.
When I got older, I puzzled over how my Mom got all of this done. She raised me on her own, worked extra jobs to make ends meet, but yet I never felt abandoned or on my own. Not even slightly. It was as if she had the power to bend time and space in order to make the best world for me. On paper, my Mom should have been gone a lot. But in reality, she wasn’t. She was always there for me, nurturing me in mind, body and soul.
Whatever positive traits I have, whatever intellectual curiosity I possess, is all thanks to her. I was lucky — blessed — to have Mom as a guiding force in my life.