My Mother could read surrounded by the chaos of 9 children, 1 Husband, 1 Great Grandmother, 2 German Shepard’s and a frozen dead mouse blanketed in a sock and laid on a register by my brother Willie Frankenstein.
My Mother could disappear into a book faster than a speeding bullet and once the transition was complete that dimension of time and space absorbed her completely. You better not “interrupt” her reading. If you did, if you rubber-banded her back into this time and space while giving her no time to adjust ( like while fighting with your sister over anything) you were like as not , to have that book thrown at your head.
Now, my Mother was what they call a “Dead-eye”. Both with a book and a gun. She had one hell of an arm and her ability to aim correctly was nothing short of a sharpshooter. My father found that out one night out on the Farm, when for entertainment they went down by the silo to shoot at rats. I should say Dad shot at rats, Mom hit them with a regularity that had Dad calling her “Dead Eye”. He also used to like to tease that he had caught the “fastest girl” in Ashtabula County. Because she had won a Countywide Track event. He just loved to tease her so. She’d glance up from her book long enough to give him an icy glare and then saying nothing, dive right back into the book. They were such a pair. I can remember him telling us about how they met each other. He had noticed her for some time and finally worked up the courage to talk to her but as he closed in he got scared so he ran up and stole half her sandwich instead. My Dad, what a charmer!
Anyway back to books being thrown at your head. When we were little, there were no penny romances for this girl. She needed a truly different reality. While she took to the Romance novels in her later years, when we were growing up her taste ran to books with heft, books and writers that required focus. We’re talking Russian Writers here. Books you have to sit down to read. So my parents were capable of and loved to step out of reality and into books. That’s how they stayed sane before Xanex, reading and Rolling Rock beer.
Ma also believed it was far more important to be respected than to be loved. And being liked wasn’t even in the equation. We were family.
I miss her. That little Puritan/Quaker Rena May…I wish she had lived long enough for me to have shown her that book on John McCombs Family that traced her lineage back to Revolutionary Soldiers. She always said that branch of the McCombs went back to D.A.R. members. I can certainly understand a little better now why she was the way she was. All over her family tree they (the Knapps, the Lloyds and the Bentons) really were very active in the history of the United States, Virginia and Massachusetts and Connecticut in particular. I can see where Mommy got her upright, Quaker ways, straight as an arrow but I’m awful glad she also had the Scottish wit that made our little Quaker so hysterically funny from time to time. She had a sense of timing and could do more damage with one word than most comedians need 15 minutes for.