DAY 30 – #SOL2021: Help I am Becoming my Mother

It is late 1950’s or early 1960’s – I am an over active reader (just barely reading and always moving), an explorer and forever curious. I am entering the preteens – the time of changing bodies, the times of knowing but really knowing very little of the world or anything else for that matter.

My world was an average size city in mid America with weekend trips to the family farm. We were a family of three kids and one overworked Mother. If you looked at the statistics we were a household that sats well below the poverty line. You couldn’t see if from the outside. We lived in a small house with a nice yard of flowers. Our clothes were always clean and looking great (mostly homemade). We had plenty to eat although the dinner fair was not lavish. Our treats were few and always homemade – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, salt water taffy, peanut clusters. Soda Pop was bought and one bottle shared between three kids -measured very carefully to be sure we each had equal amounts and allowed on the weekends only – a huge treat if it was in the house. (my guess is there was some financial support from some unmarried Aunts but it is only a guess)

Inside this little world I was restless with a body that did not sit still. I was found more often climbing the swing set instead of swinging. This movement made it hard for me to focus on the detail of things like reading and writing. Those two items I craved and yet they gave me great frustration. I ran from them as much as possible. Read books – nope! Write that thank you letter – Nope! Write that paper for school – Nope! The struggle was real. The words were hard for me to grab hold of. The letters seems to always have different sounds to them or in different places. When words needed to be written I had the same problem – “where the H… do the letters go to spell that word correctly? Why a c and not an s for gods sake?”

In these times of high frustration I would disappear in one of two places. One was the apple orchard that belonged to the orphanage a few blocks away. Always up in tree as high as I could go.

The other was our basement where we collected years and years of National Geographic’s. These dated way back before I was born. The pile of bright yellow cover frames sitting on the unused old wooden bar. Here I would sit behind the bar unseen paging through magazine after magazine reading little but absorbing the views of a world so strange and different from my own through the thousands of images. There was joy in knowing there was a big world out there. A joy in just looking over and over again at the animals, the jungle, and mountains, nature in all its glory. All so amazing.

Time flew by and we grew up. The National Geographic’s remained in the basement getting moldy and always there to look through when I returned home to visit. At times I would wonder and get a bit mad at my mother for holding on to these old magazines. I said, “you need to let them go.” “Yes” she said but they were always there. The older I got I marveled at the fact that we had little money but she always bought this expensive magazine. This was something we could not afford to put money into but there they were. Our private collection to read, and research through for school reports or just get lost into when that private time was needed!

We, adult children, tried hard to get her to get rid of these but there were there until we needed to clean out her house. She was in her 90’s. In my own home I had already started to collect those magazines with the bright yellow cover frame.

I had already come to the place where they were sitting on the shelf with my books. They are really on two different books shelfs with the hopes that my husband is not totally aware of my growing collection.

After years of pushing my mother to get rid of those old magazines here I am holding on to them. Here I am just like I was as a kid – finding a place to go off to in the house to page through them looking at the images – reading small amounts at a time (reading which I now do well – thank you!). I tell myself I am saving them for a time when I have more time to sit and read.

I am now in my late 60’s – retired but still looking for time to really read those amazing magazines. When in reality I really am only becoming my mother!

“Saving those for who?” I ask myself!

  • “Little Man” – my grandson? He is more than welcome to page through them at 22 months of age
  • Save them because there are so many powerful words and images of our world?
  • Save them because I have not read them all cover to cover yet?

No (well maybe) but more it is – I am just like my mother – they are familiar, they make me happy and I know I will never travel to all those wonderful place but inside these yellow covered magazines I can dream safely about a world I love. (That said lately they have had articles that rock my core when the safety of our planet is at risk. But that writing is for another time. The Power of words! Oh and the one on women or the more current on on Mars! so much to think about)

I will say my collection is very small compared to hers. Her stash when back to the early 1950’s! But I have time – I am have a few years before I am 95 and my kids are cleaning out my house!

P.S. I also have a collection of Gardens Illustrated (all about English Garden’s – mainly). They are hidden behind the couch in my office. SHHHH – don’t tell my husband! or my kids!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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