My mother is the smartest person I know.
This is a woman who never attended a day of college. When she graduated from high school in 1949, she left her parents, seven younger brothers and sisters and the family farm for the bright lights of the big city.
She found a little studio apartment and an office job, and pretty soon she met my dad.
Like many women of her era, Mom fell in love, got married and settled in to life as a full time wife and mother. While she never attended a formal classroom again, Mom continued learning by reading everything she could get her hands on — newspapers, magazines, non-fiction books and fiction novels.
She developed a love for reading when she was a young girl. One of her favorite childhood memories is of the Bookmobile that stopped by her one-room schoolhouse every two weeks. Mom checked out new books every chance she got and immediately read them all. The Bobbsey Twins series was one of her favorites, along with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. When she was a teenager, she loved Zane Grey novels.
When I learned to read, Mom introduced me to the books of her childhood. I was a fast learner and began reading chapter books in first grade. The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew became my favorites, too. But Mom also gave me books by author Lois Lenski, who wrote about little girls growing up in the country.
Mom probably wanted me to read the Lenski books in hopes they would help me understand her own experiences growing up on a Depression-era farm — so very different from my own suburban childhood of the ’60s and ’70s.
Although she and I were very, very different in many ways, reading was one thing we did have in common. Over the years, our differences have almost disappeared. But we still love reading.
Just the other night, we had a long conversation about the latest book she and I both read. We had our own little book club meeting right there on the phone.
She told me about some of the other books she’s read lately, and one in particular really impressed me. It was a historical-political fiction novel about Cuba in the years before Fidel Castro took over.
“It was so interesting!” she said. “I didn’t know it was like that in Cuba then.”
Mom is 81 years old, still reading, still eager to learn. She knows so much. She’s always been interested in so many different things — in everything really, at one time or another. Now her brain is a library of knowledge, filled with information on just about everything under the sun.
This woman, who never attended a day of college, never fails to amaze me. She is, without a doubt, the smartest person I know. And that’s incentive enough for me to keep reading, too.