In a previous post, I discussed how my mother was able to use guilt to manipulate my behavior. As I reflected on My Plexus, and all the areas that make my life rich and rewarding, I realized that my mother was a very important factor in arriving at many of those areas. So I wanted to offer a tribute to my mother.
My mother grew up Amish. And in the Amish community most children dropped out of school after eighth grade. She developed a real passion for learning and decided she wanted to become a nurse. With the help of her mother, she convinced her father that she should stay in school. She finished high school, and went on to nursing school. After a break in college to work in a pediatric hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, she returned to Goshen College and finished her RN and BA degree.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was a strong influence in making certain my siblings and I were introduced to art, music, and literature at an early age. We sang in our church’s children’s choir in the second and third grade. The family went to Vets Memorial in Columbus to hear Marion Anderson sing, VanClybern play the piano, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra perform. We started private piano lessons by third or fourth grade. I took trombone lessons and played in the middle school band and orchestra. I sang in the middle school and high school choirs. During middle school and high school my mother took me to Bellefontaine for private cello lessons. We were encouraged to participate in the community choir that performed Handel’s Messiah each Christmas.
I didn’t realize, until much later in life, how much emphasis she had placed on music. Ironically, when I was part of a gospel group in recent years, she was disappointed. I think she felt that I was wasting the education she had given me. She preferred classical music.
She loved art and had painted when she had time, before all the children came along. My sisters took art lessons. She somehow recognized that I didn’t possess that talent and didn’t waste the teacher’s time with me.
She knew that a head start on education was a key to success. She read books to us at a young age. We had two years of kindergarten before starting first grade. She introduced us to the local library, and we were never criticized for spending long hours reading. My favorite spot was the tree in front of our house. TV time was limited, with the hope we would spend more time in our books.
When I turned to the sciences in high school and college, and entered medical school, she never discouraged me. But she often asked me about books she was reading, or offered to lend them to me. When I visited her, she was always listening to classical music. She didn’t get excited about my gospel group, but she came to our performances occasionally.
We really never talked about writing, once I started down that path. She was excited and proud when I edited my father’s autobiography. She didn’t seem too interested in my writing when she learned that it was fiction. But somehow I think she would be proud that I finished my book. I wish she could have lived to see that day. I realize now that she was probably the earliest and biggest influence for me to add culture – music and literature – to my plexus.
Who were the biggest influences in your life to add literature to your plexus?