I clearly remembering saying that to my Mom on one of our first visits to the incredible Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. as she was explaining how many books were contained in the Library. I was about 6 years old at the time.
We visited the Library often, sitting in its massive Main Reading Room researching and writing whatever assignment was due for school, or simply reading for pleasure. As a child I used to get dizzy holding my head back in attempt to see the room’s ceiling which to me seemed higher than the sky!
When I proclaimed to Mom that I was going to read every book in the Library of Congress she never corrected or discouraged me. Instead she said “then you better get started!” I remember reading two chapter books in the reading room that day and was so proud of myself for getting a good start on reading ALL of the books.
Those visits with Mom to this breathtaking place helped to make me the person I am today! My love of all things printed (and now on Kindle) were shaped by Mom’s love of them too. I wouldn’t be an author today were it not for Mom.
I still get goosebumps when I enter the Library of Congress – the marble, the statues, the millions of books, the exhibits – all of which emphasize for me the importance of reading and learning.
When I turned 12 Mom reminded me that the next year I would be a teenager, and at that time she expected me to share with others (including strangers) what I had read and learned in the Library so I could hold a conversation about the topic to get “a different perspective” from my own.
I so looked forward to turning 13 and starting on the mission Mom gave me! Countless people of all ages and ethnicities engaged me in conversation and contributed in a huge way to my personal and spiritual growth.
This past weekend I went to the Library to see the Holiday tree and the Rosa Parks exhibit. As I walked up the marble stairs to the exhibit, tears started to roll down my cheeks! The tears really surprised me, but at that moment I missed my “pre-dementia” Mom so much!
Though I miss going to the Library with her, she’d be very proud that I still go! In spite of the tears I also realized we’ve also received one huge Blessing along our dementia journey. Unlike many others in the late stages of dementia Mom can still read! She can no longer comprehend, but she can proudly belt out all the words on any given page. I read to Mom a lot and she still reads to me (she also makes sure I’m paying attention!)
As I always do any time I visit an exhibit, I took Mom the brochures on the Rosa Parks and the We Shall Not Be Denied exhibits. When I arrived at the group home, Mom was eating dinner and as I sat down to chat with her I put the brochures near her plate. She said hello to me, but never took her eyes off the brochures. Then she put her fork down and started to read, which is very surprising given how much Mom loves to eat!
After watching her read for about 15 minutes I asked her if she wanted to finish her dinner and then read later. What was her answer? “I’m learning something right now!” I love the intensity with which she does everything, and she seemed to really resonated with the black and white photos! As I sat with Mom I reflected on all the fun times we spent in the Library of Congress! Mom used to joke that it was the ONE place I felt honored NOT to talk. I am comforted by the fact that I can cherish those memories for me and Mom! I also reflected on how grateful I am to Mom for teaching me to love learning, something I pray I’ve passed on to my students over these last twenty-two years.
People keep asking me what I want for Christmas and my response is always the same, that I need nothing and that I already have so many gifts in my life! One of the main gifts I’m thankful for is that God has chosen to let Mom keep her ability to read, the ability she cherishes more than anything in this world! There isn’t any gift I could receive Christmas Day that is better than that!
What gift do you already have that’s better than anything you’ll open Christmas morning? My plan is to read a short story to Mom on Christmas Day and I hope she’ll read to me! Best gifts ever and I can’t wait! Love you Mom!