Today my mother died after a short month-long illness. She was not only a great mom, she was my mentor as a librarian. Before her retirement in the late 1980s, she had worked in local public libraries for about 30 years and I basically grew up in a library. She always instilled in me an appreciation of books and reading and she always let me read whatever I wanted. We liked a lot of the same books but we also liked to “bicker” about the merits of various titles we’d read. In fact, my mother was reading and enjoying one of my favorite books of this year, “The Lonely Polygamist” by Brady Udall, when she passed away.
There were two children’s books that we’d argued about when I was in grammar school. These two books were her favorites from her own childhood: “Hitty: Her First Hundred Years” (1929) by Rachel Field about a doll’s travels over a century, and “The Secret Garden” (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the story of lonely orphans on the Yorkshire moors. Over and over, she’d recommended these books to me and each time I tried to read them I hated them. She finally gave up and “Hitty” became a running joke between us, calling any book we’d disliked “Hitty-ous”.
This past Monday, October 25, I opened a box of donated books at the library. My mother had been admitted to a hospice house three days earlier. This is absolutely a true story: the two books on top of the pile were “Hitty” and “The Secret Garden”. I know now that this was her signal: she is still nagging me to read these damn books. I promise, Mom, this time I’ll read them! Lovingly, Cathy