My mom, Barbara Golden
I don’t usually write about my mom here but I thought it was a good idea since it is Mother’s Day. My mom and I don’t see each other so often since I live in Sweden and she is still in Philadelphia. But once or twice a year, when I am in Philly, I drive her crazy with telling her what to do (like take more walks since her doctor said she should) and she drives me crazy by hovering when I try to cook dinner for her. We bicker with one another but we know we love each other.
When I first told my mom I wanted to be a writer, she thought I meant I wanted to be a journalist. Heck, I thought I wanted to be a journalist too. I thought I could be a clever news reporter by day and a novelist by night. When I was in high school, I won the chance to take part in a semester-long journalism workshop at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. While it was interesting, I realized I didn’t want to be a reporter. I wanted to be novelist. My mom (and my dad) wanted me to have a job with a steady income–I think she really wanted me to be an accountant or a lawyer. But I didn’t have a head for numbers and I thought courtroom antics were boring. Plus, I had this aversion to having to represent anyone I thought was guilty. And when I was in college, everyone I knew in law school always looked miserable. I didn’t want to be miserable. I wanted to be happy writing short stories and novels.
So when I told my mother I was going to graduate school to study creative writing, she was a little concerned. How would I support myself once I graduated? Would I be able to find a job that would pay enough to cover my student loans? While she tried to get me to see reason, she didn’t try to force me into something that wouldn’t make me happy. I think she realized that sending me to a high school that specialized in engineering and science was a big mistake since I didn’t understand anything while I was there. I am still amazed I graduated with as good of grades as I received. I felt lost the entire time.
My mom grew up in Smithfield, Virginia and moved to Philadelphia when she was a teenager. She didn’t get a chance to go to college until she was older and had already raised three kids. My granddad was a bit old school and didn’t believe in paying for his oldest daughter to go to college. He thought she would just drop out and get married. But going to college was always important to my mom, and she encouraged all of us to go–she didn’t want us to be stuck like a lot of other kids in similar situations. She wanted us to see the world and to experience new things. I watched her studying for her courses and it increased my interest in going to college. So–even if I didn’t always tell her this–she was a role model for me. I saw how she worked during the day and went to school in the evening, and I knew I could study too. I knew I could do whatever it took to get an education.
I never used to let my mom read the stories I wrote. I thought she would be shocked or angry about anything I wrote, especially since whatever was going on in my life usually ended up in my fiction. And my mom is more conservative than I am. But when she read my graduate thesis, she didn’t raise an eyebrow at the stories–not even the ones that were a little graphic. She just told me how proud she was of me. And that made me feel like I was doing the right thing.
So I hope my mom is having an awesome Mother’s Day in Philadelphia. I’m pretty sure my brother and sister have done something nice for her. I will treat Barbs to something nice when I am next in Philadelphia. I keep telling her that Tord and I are going to take her away from everything for a few days. Maybe we’ll actually succeed this time.
Love you, Mom!