My mother has always been an artist. My whole life. Before I was old enough to remember anything, she carried me on her back to her Bachelor’s Fine Arts classes at the University of Oregon.
Then – when we lived on the outskirts of Tucson – she made mobiles out of copper wires and bones I scavenged in the desert for her. When we lived in a refugee’s hostel in Zurich, she drew every day. When we lived in Seattle, she painted on my bedroom walls.
When I was a kid, my mother threw pottery, painted portraits, sketched in her journal, sketched in the margins of books, sketched on loose pieces of junk mail sitting on the counter.
My mother smells like charcoal, oil paint, thinner, and stretched canvas. Walking into her studio is like walking into my childhood.
And when my mother wasn’t painting or drawing, she was reading aloud to us. So many books. Reading to us on the porch, reading to us in our beds, in the park, or at the kitchen table. Reading aloud to us as she drove the Buick we bought for $1.
My mother’s reverence for artists was only matched by her reverence for authors and the written word.
Because my mother is who she is, I memorized poems as a child. Wrote stories. Journaled. My mother taught me Greek and Latin roots. We examined art and process. She told me stories about authors, their failures and successes. Their doubts. Selling zero stories and hiding from the landlord.
We didn’t have a television when I was little, and I didn’t want to grow up to be in movies. I didn’t want to be a celebrity. I just wanted to write words that would someday be in a book that my mother would read. I knew that book would be a novel. Something worthy of her.
When I finally had a book that I thought was well-written enough to dedicate to my mother (my fifth book – my novel Too Shattered For Mending), I did exactly what I planned. I dedicated it to my mother.
And today – as I write this on Mothers’ Day – my mother is doing exactly what she’s always done. She’s painting every day, and becoming more and more prolific as she settles in to what she’s always been: An artist.