Monday, July 28, 2008

The Writing Gene

Going through my mom’s lifetime collection of Stuff, I’ve finally reached The Bookcase.

Now, the last thing my house needs is more books—especially since moving my mom into our house has entailed sacrificing some precious feet of bookshelf (and just try getting furniture down a hall lined with bookcases!) But what makes THE Bookcase extremely problematical is that all the books on it were written by my mother’s husband or daughters.

What does one do with all of these lovingly inscribed books? There are simply too many to squeeze into her new bedroom. My dad (the historian Raymond L. Proctor) published three history books, with two translated into foreign editions. I have one history book and a dozen novels to my name. I didn’t give her copies of most of the foreign editions, but I did give her some of those that came out in hardcover with interesting covers. And then there’s my sister, the novelist Penelope Williamson. She’s written a good dozen herself, also published in hardcover in numerous foreign translations.

One might be tempted to think my sister and I inherited our writing gifts, such as they are, from my dad. But the truth is that while my father was a wonderful verbal storyteller and an excellent historian, he leaned heavily on my mom in the writing of his books. Tucked away in my mother’s desk, I recently found a collection of short stories that I didn’t even known my mother had written. They are truly wonderful stories, artfully crafted, never missing a beat in story arc or character development. Once, my mother dreamt of becoming a journalist. She even won a scholarship to a local Catholic women’s college, but the Great Depression intervened. My grandfather lost both of his businesses, and rather than go to college and become a journalist, my mother went to work as a secretary to help support her family, then married my father and became an Air Force wife and mother.

My mother is one of those people gifted with a serene temperament, never looking back with regret at what-might-have-beens. But when I found those short stories, I gazed over at that bookcase full of her family’s writings, and wept. For what might have been.


Sphinx Ink said...

This is so touching. I wept too, because it made me think of the sacrifices my own mother made in order to protect, feed and help her children. Her sacrifices were different from your mother's, but came from the same place--all-encompassing mother's love.

Steve Malley said...


In similar fashion, I recently got a fresh copy of my birth certificate. Imagine my surprise to find my father's occupation listed as 'writer'!

Do any of us *ever* truly know our parents?

Charles Gramlich said...

I bet there are many folks who had dreams they never got to live out because they were in a situation or a time where they had to put their families first. It is a bit sad for you to find those stories now, but also rather wonderful. You have something of your mother you never had before. I wonder if you would want to do something such as have those stories published and then give the book to your mom. It's very easy to have a book made on something like LULU.

Farrah Rochon said...

I'm blown away by this. It's so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

i very love your own writing choice, very interesting.
don't quit as well as keep penning considering it simply that is worth to follow it,
impatient to browse a lot more of your current posts, thankx!

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