I don’t talk about my personal life much on this blog, but it was two years ago this week that I lost my mother.
Lost isn’t really the right word. I know where she went. I even sort of know how she went. But…well, anyway.
My dad also deserves a lot of credit for being a genre influence when I was a kid. We roleplayed space movies on long drives in the car — he was the pilot, I was the navigator (and sometimes the gunner or science officer, as needed). I treasure that, and hug it close to my heart.
But my mom was all about the books. It was something she inherited from her father, also an avid reader in the genre. Tolkien was my bedtime reading — the leatherbound hardback editions with the gilded pages and the runes on the cover. When I was about eight, I was handed the Chronicles of Prydain and we read them together. Then I started attacking the bookshelves in earnest. I probably had exposure to a lot of worlds and ideas that I was too young to process, but many of them became formative (or at least, informative) parts of who I am now.
I grew up with Douglas Adams, Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, McCaffrey…and the new Analog, Asimov’s, and F&SF, which we would both bargain and barter and sneak underhandedly to read first when they arrived every month. The night before my eleventh birthday, my mother put THE DARK IS RISING in my hands. At twelve, I discovered The Belgariad on the bookshelf. I still carry those ten David Eddings first edition paperbacks everywhere I move, and I reread them all the way through about once a year. When I was thirteen, my mother put ARROWS OF THE QUEEN by Mercedes Lackey in my hands. She told me that it had made her cry, when Talia was chosen. It made me cry, too.
When I quit my pricing analyst job at Scholastic to pursue freelance editing, my parents were both proud of me and excited for me. But my mother knew the names I referenced and could grok the plots and settings and complications I described when I talked about my work. She was the only one, besides my husband, whose eyes didn’t glaze over just a little bit.
When things finally started to take off for me, when I discovered the convention community and started to network, she said that now every month when she got her Asimov’s and Analog and F&SF, she would look at the table of contents and wonder how many of those names were names I knew.
Two years on, it turns out, I’m privileged to know quite a number of them and to count some of them among my good friends. Every time someone tells me they’ve been published in one of those markets, I think of my mom and wish I could tell her.
She was passionately, almost ferally proud of me for breaking into the book world, and especially into the genre she most loved. But she was also bitterly, fiercely envious of me as well, and that was a conflict that she mentioned to me on several occasions because she could never quite resolve it and just be proud.
She had an English degree, but worked as a bookkeeper — in fact, her framed diploma hung on the bathroom wall. Because, she always said, that was how much good it had done her. She had never figured out a way to work with what she loved, and while she was vicariously enjoying the fact that I have, she was still constantly galled that she had not. She had been an editor for a social activist organization for a while, but had never pursued working with fiction.
Even after I started earning paychecks for editing, I told her that it wasn’t like it was too late. I had forged my own path. I hadn’t been lucky or fallen into editing by accident — I did legwork, I worked hard, I had ambition, I proved myself. The Internet connects publishers and editors and authors, making it much simpler to work remotely. The Internet also makes researching opportunities much simpler than it’s ever been. But she felt stuck. She felt as though, even though I had made the choice and had made it work, and encouraged her to follow her dreams too, the same choices were somehow not open to her. She held herself back from pursuing it, and remained bitter, and proud, and conflicted.
Ultimately, the only thing stopping her was her.
When I acquired TRIPTYCH, I read her the part about the mother and the daughter that made me cry. It still makes me cry, every single time.
A month before she died, I told her excitedly about plans for WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME. Todd McCaffrey had agreed to write for us and I was thrilled, and so was she. I wish she’d been able to see the actual book. Part of me wishes I could tell her that, in the next anthology, Mercedes Lackey has written a story for me. But, I feel bittersweet about it, too, because I know how that while she would have been awed by the news, she would also have been blindingly jealous, wondering why it couldn’t have been her.
And I would still be telling her that it could have been, could still be, wasn’t too late to do some research and send some emails and make it happen. Maybe not full-time, but something, to some degree, that would have been fulfilling.
So I guess what I’m trying to say out of all this, is this:
I miss my mom. A lot.
And, never think that you can’t pursue what you love. Whether you want to write, or edit, or create crafts…however you want to express your soul and vision, there is some sort of avenue available to you. Don’t talk yourself out of finding it.