I am a happy amalgam of quirky mother, book lover, gardener, and now writer. I was born an old soul, according to my mother, and spent most of my childhood buried in books. When there was nothing to read, I was known to desperately scan the backs of cereal boxes—or even the Yellow Pages.
In front of my kids one day, I referred to myself as an “ordinary mum.” The dining room fell silent. “No, I’m sorry, Mum, but you are definitely not ordinary; you are the furthest thing from a normal mother,” remarked one quick-witted daughter. Everyone broke out laughing, including her. I am still not sure if I was insulted or praised that day.
However, there are benefits to having an English major for a mother: Books abound in your house and there is always someone willing to read them to you. And when you get older, one of the best family chores is to relax and read to a younger sibling. In addition, you become remarkably articulate because of your extensive vocabulary. Words just soak into your brain as if by osmosis. My kids would get annoyed when they had to stop and explain the words they used to their friends. ”Oh,” I’d later soothe, ‘extricate’ is a very small, common word; I am sure it just slipped their minds.”
The formal language required to write essays was second nature to my kids, while their peers struggled not to use slang or the new “texting” lingo. Although sometimes the boys did not share my enthusiasm when I helped edit their reports or became too excited over beautiful Shakespearian quotes that I had discovered for them. “DAD!” bellowed my oldest one evening as he huddled miserably over the keyboard. ”She’s really getting into this stuff again!”
Once, as I described—in lofty language—the exploits of the marauding, masked raccoons that frequented our backyard, my brother-in-law raised one eyebrow in my oldest daughter’s direction. She grinned and retorted, “Yup, that’s par for the course. Now you know how we have been brought up!”
Whenever I become upset, my vocabulary expands exponentially. At one meal, after taking offence at someone’s comments, I actually stood up to deliver my retort, using the most scholarly words I could conjure up. Afterwards, the room once again fell silent. Another daughter spoke up this time: “Wow, Mum, that was really impressive!”
My youngest, Rebecca, hilariously exemplifies the perils facing a child whose mother is an English major; everyone jokes that she was a “mini me” from the time she was two years old.
Case in point: One morning, when the school bus was not scheduled to pull up for another twenty minutes, six-year-old Rebecca was already tugging on the kitchen door, hoping for some free time before school. As the door opened, I looked up.
But before I could say anything, Alison, one of her many older sisters, whipped around and grumbled,
”Rebecca, did you try to do your hair again? The part’s crooked. Come over here and I will fix it for you.”
Claire, who had entered the kitchen with Alison, looked her little sister up and down.
”Mum couldn’t have picked those clothes for you to wear,” she snapped. “The top does not match your sweater. You’ll have to change or keep the sweater buttoned up all day.”
Hearing all the commotion, Mary yelled from the bathroom, “Rebecca, you forgot to brush your teeth again!”
Rebecca suddenly threw her arms up into the air and huffed in exasperation,
“All right, all right, everybody. Quit trying to dismember me!”
Edited by <a href=”http://theimportanceofbeingedited.wordpress.com/about”>Timothy Pike, freelance editor for hire</a>