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Reading – The Next Best Thing To Being There With My Mother

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The Reading Mother

by Strickland Gillilan

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.

I read this poem once… a long time ago…sent it to my brother…reminded me of him…don’t know why…maybe the pirate thing…maybe because of the boy thing. I think the poem speaks to us all – girls and boys. My mother read to us incessantly when we were growing up. It wasn’t always children’s literature either. She read anything she could get her hands on to keep us quiet for the moment – newspaper articles, magazines, books of her own – and we listened with open ears and open eyes because she knew how to make it magical. She implanted the love of reading in all of us – there were five – four of us stair-step. She nurtured our imaginations. Mother also knew that if we were reading we were occupied and that kept us out of trouble! Smart woman. I tried to replicate that with my children and think I succeeded. Yeah – I know, Andrew only reads music and textbooks, but hey its reading. and he’s not in trouble! I can’t read music – can you?

I lived for the days we went to the public library. Does anyone remember the summer reading programs? We came home with stacks of books and our cards to fill out with lists of the books we had devoured. I can’t remember what the point was – can’t remember winning any prizes – just know as soon as that stack was consumed we headed off to the library again to retrieve another stack. I think we were in a little competition with each other – our friends and our siblings – to see who could read the most books during summer vacation – who could fill their card up first and start on a second one. It occupied our minds and kept us busy on those hot summer days. We were learning and didn’t even know it! I know if I had not read as much when I was younger, I would probably not have the passion to write today. I believe you have to learn to love to read before you learn to love to write. It’s kinda like crawling before you walk.

This is in remembrance of my  mother on Mothers Day for reading us those first words and getting me started. Thanks Mother – if only you could read us one more book.




About Elle Knowles

Elle Knowles lives in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and off-at-college-most-of-the-time son. She has four daughters, one son, and eleven beautiful grandchildren. 'Crossing the Line' is her first novel. The sequel 'What Line' is a work in progress. Recently published is Coffee-Drunk Or Blind - a nonfiction story of homesteading in the Alaska wilderness with her parents and four siblings, told through letters by her mother and remembered accounts from the family.

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