Monday, May 9, 2011


Thanks, Mum, for the gift that keeps on giving

I am writing this on Mother’s Day, a day that will begin with the New York Times read in bed and end curled up my bed with the latest book I am reading (Slow Recoil, by C.B. Forrest) and with an interlude on the sofa with an Agatha Christie biography. I am thinking, after twenty-five years, how much I still miss my mother, every day and not just on Monday’s Day. She’s left me plenty of reminders of who she was and the legacy she left.

First of all, she made sure we lived in a reading household. It was tidy and even elegant, but newspapers and books and magazines in various stages of being read were a natural part of our lives. We all read everything in sight and talked about what we were reading.

My brother and I were read to every night as toddlers and knew our way around books before we went to school. We were both adopted children and my mother found a book that explained this to pre-schoolers in a memorable and emotionally satisfying way.

My mother taught me that the library was there for my use and enjoyment and time spent in it was time well-spent. It was the only place I was allowed to walk to on my own. She shared my grief when our Sydney library burnt to the ground when I was eight years old and all 80,000 volumes were lost.

She believed that a trip to the local bookstore could be a pleasure and I remember visits to MacLeod’s to pick up the latest Nancy Drew. She also believed that these books were a good investment and encouraged my aunts to send them as gifts.

She was proud of the fact that I read so much. In retrospect, she probably thought it kept me out of trouble at least some of the time. It’s just as well she didn’t know what I was up to when I wasn’t reading.

She read everything I wrote with the same interest she would give to her latest novel and she loved to laugh. No one appreciated humour in writing more than she did.

She believed in having comfortable places to read around the house and we always had large easy chairs you could curl up in and sofas you could stretch out on. We still do. We had our financial ups and downs but I learned that one can always afford to read and humour is often better than money in the bank.

She accepted reading as an excuse for not doing a lot of things: “Not now, Mum, I’m reading.”

My mother married a man who loved to read too. Come to think of it, so did I! It ran in the family.

Is it any surprise that of her two children one turned out to be a writer and a READ volunteer and the other a publisher?

Thanks, Mum, for everything you did for me, but especially, for encouraging free and happy reading and the joy of laughter. Those are the gifts that keep on giving. I only wish you’d been around long enough to read my books and share a laugh today.

I hope some of you will pop by and tell us what it was like reading in your home.

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder, which hit the bookshelves last month, is brimming with names, no two the same.


  1. The last thing my mother would ask as my sisters and I were heading out the door to the doctor, dentist or babysitting gigs was always, "Have you got something to read?" This was accompanied by a worried frown as if the very worst thing she could ever imagine happening to us would be to be caught somewhere without a book.

  2. We were taken weekly to the library --- a place I adored. As my reading prowess improved, stacks of books had to come home to satisfy my thirst.

    As the eldest of five, it was nigh to impossible to find places to read undisturbed. I recall hiding in apple trees in full bloom (with bees buzzing about),sitting on benches in cemetaries (very quiet indeed)and in the bathroom with the door locked.

    Mom was very encouraging . . . up to the point of the bathroom. One bathroom, seven people, at least one being potty trained. Need I say more?

  3. Nice memories,MJ. My mum would take us weekly to Westmount library,& it was always tough limiting our choices to 12 books. Walking home through the park, we were full of anticipation with our arms full of new adventures.
    When my brother & I were 11 & 9, we spent the winter reading King Lear out loud, with both my parents taking parts as well. Greek to us at the time, but in the spring, we were taken to Stratford to see Lear on stage & the whole thing then fell into place. It was amazing to see the pages come alive.
    We still rate Christmas by how many books we receive -- "I had a 4-book Christmas!"

  4. What a lovely tribute to your mother and her conviction that reading was important. My mother too loved to read as did my grandmother who put off household chores to read. Once, visiting relatives dropped in and took the opportunity to inspect her new stove only to flip the oven door and find the oven filled with unwashed dishes she hadn't had time to do because she was reading.