My mother’s focus was solely on the welfare and care of her family and home. She had no outside hobbies, unless you counted her weekly walks to the boulevard gift shop. Mom loved sending cards; she found the perfect one for the occasion or refused to send one at all, promising herself she’d look again when some new cards came in.
What reading she managed to squeeze in to her day was comprised of short news articles or those snippets included in the Parade section of the Sunday Paper. Magazines that she treated herself to only on occasion had to compete with and exceed the subject quality of either a Grace Kelly or a First Lady like Jackie Kennedy in order to have a place on the living room bookshelf. Mom purchased women’s magazines that emphasized feminine personas with proper political and movie star quality. Her articles collection stopped rather abruptly once Mom realized she could no longer identify with a newer crowd of cover personalities. Diana made it as did Barbara Streisand who just barely squeezed in by a nose (no pun intended here).
Mom’s editing was strict. The articles had to have been grammatically correct and with proper spelling. In her later years, she’d fuss repeatedly over the typographical errors in that day’s edition…How COULD they let such mistakes go out to their readers??? Who was watching the newspaper staff anyway?
These were the days when Mom’s only “space” away from the kitchen and family brouhaha was the bathroom. There was a small standing chest inside. The pink chest had only four-drawers, but it fit nicely in the small space between the wall and bathroom sink, directly opposite the commode. Neither the main bath nor its half-bath counterpart in the back room addition had vanities for extra storage. One had to be creative. The linen closet couldn’t hold any more towels or sheets. Thus, three of the four drawers were filled to the gills with first aid supplies, extra washcloths, and feminine necessities. Women outnumbered our household 3-1.
The third drawer down was the filing place for Mom’s favorite articles and selected readings from over the years. Favorite is the key word here, as the same articles stayed inside the drawer once deposited; rarely were they removed. Newspaper “Strength for the Day”, medical blurbs, favorite Dear Ann columns, and two or three Herb Caen treatises on San Francisco experiences were stuffed inside, with an old Reader’s Digest, circa 1954, and some religious gift books colorfully illustrated with God’s beautiful countryside surrounding the quintessential steeple churches.
There were times when the original articles were actually enjoyable; other times, it was “Not again!” Once we gals memorized the items by heart and outgrew the contents, we began to assemble our own collection. We made sure our newer choices didn’t usurp the familiar…the drawer had its limits; but it had to keep all three gals entertained when necessary.
Weekly, Dad carried his own reading material into the main bath; a green sheet with easy-to-read, one-line content that included names of jockey, horse, owner and miscellaneous other statistics, including post time the next Saturday.
Mom understood Daddy’s reading limitations, so each morning during his “semi-retirement” years, she’d read a timely article to Daddy, who, having no choice, sat there dutifully, drinking his coffee and pretending to listen with rapt attention. He’d long ago accepted there was no escaping his wife when she was fully engaged, determined in her mission to keep family apprised of day’s current events…