Several months ago, missing the book club I had joined in Utah, I decided that I wanted to start separate books clubs with each of my parents. They both jumped on board, and I have loved every minute. My parents and I talked separately about the books we wanted to read. I love how the books we chose and our conversations about the books capture so perfectly some of the things I love most about each parent individually. My parents and I have standing plans (almost) every weekend to talk about the most recent chapters we have read.
Dad and I talk Saturday mornings. We are (painstakingly) making our way through Harold Bloom's The Anatomy of Influence. Bloom's academic language pushes my understanding to the limits. I often find myself at the end of a chapter wondering what it was I just read, reviewing the work for one or two paragraphs from which I might be able to pull something intelligible to discuss during our phone meetings. As is generally the case when talking with my dad, however, complex ideas quickly become manageable and, consequently, more profound. I leave our conversations feeling smarter, certainly, but also more passionate about literature, history, philosophy, and the humanities in general. The depth of my dad's enthusiasm for learning and his ability to draw inspiration from everything good is a characteristic I will forever associate with him and respect. In fact, I was just reading again today a book of quotes he compiled and gave me for Christmas last year. My dad has been collecting and memorizing quotes that strike him as significant for as long as I can remember. He even keeps track of the laps he swims in the pool by reciting a list of quotes he has committed to heart. This particular gift is a collection of his favorite quotes and scriptures separated into twelve different themes (one theme for each month of the year). There is then something on that theme for each day in the month to read. It is a treasure, just like our conversations, and the man himself.
Mom and I talk Sunday afternoons. The first book my mom and I chose was Cherie Carter-Scott's If Life is a Game, These are the Rules. We finished that book during our last conversation and are now moving on to Pamela Keogh's What Would Audrey (Hepburn) Do? Both of these books reflect qualities I love and appreciate in my mom. My mom has been referred to as the "steam valve" in our family. A psychologist by trade, she has the innate talent of listening, making us feel understood, taking on our stresses and giving us valuable feedback, telling us, in essence, "the rules of life" and "how to play the game." That is, she teaches us how to play the game of life with grace, integrity, and class--qualities my mom has in abundance, like Hepburn. She also helps others feel valued and understood by giving gifts personally tailored to the receiver. The most recent example? A bonsai tree is currently winging its way to our apartment, courtesy of my mom. I am thrilled to have a little nature coming into our apartment, but it was the type of bonsai tree my mom ordered that struck me most deeply--a gardenia bonsai. I love gardenias not only for their scent, but it holds special significance for me since I received a wedding gift from my dad's cousin that related a connection between the gardenia and my grandmother. I have been collecting gardenia scented candles and body sprays ever since. I can't wait to receive it and am touched by my mom's characteristic thoughtfulness.
I could, of course, go on and on. Darren and I will be traveling home to Southern California next weekend for Memorial Day. I will get to have both book clubs in person. Yay! But, book clubs aside, I just cherish every opportunity I have to be with these two amazing people. I love you, mom and dad, and will be forever grateful for your example.