Friday, April 9, 2010

Maturity: It’s Not What You Think

Remember back to when you were in school, middle school maybe, and believed that 30 was ancient and anyone who made it to 40 was miraculous (though you might have wondered why anyone would want to live that long, while existing with absolutely no cool left). Respect your elders takes on a warped view in the minds of teenagers. I mean, really, how do you respect clueless morons (which everyone past the age of twenty clearly is)?

I remember looking at older faces and thinking that they belonged to mature grownups. All their senses of spontaneity and fun long dead and gone. The fact that I believed this is rendered ridiculous when I think about my mother. The woman is truly a keeper, and I’m going to make everyone envious of the fact that I got to be hers. This woman, more than anyone else in my life, inspired the story telling I devote my life to. To say that she is immensely creative is an understatement. Let me set the scene for you.

Throughout my childhood, story time was the best thing imaginable. Original stories flowed from my mother like love, shared with not only my brother and me, but with any children who came in contact with my mom. Characters were sometimes imaginary and other times characterized by her hand, shaped into the particular personality of the character, that could soothe, hug, inspire, or tickle. The lucky kids would get the honor of keeping the character safe behind their ear all day until they returned it safely to my mom. There is a story from camp one year, when a little girl had a complete breakdown when her flashlight fell into the stinky end of the outhouse. My mom stepped up to the task of healing the emotional, gravity-induced wounds of a stranger’s child. Characters and stories flowed and then, tears dried up, the little girl brushed her hair away to allow my mom to deposit the character behind her ear. My mother will never forget the maturity on the little girl’s face as she showed up at the end of the day to give the character back to her rightful owner. I was too young at the time to understand how special the gift my mother gave was, but I understand it now.

Tales of ugliness and parenthood gone wrong litter the news, each making me feel more grateful than the last, because I was raised with love, humor, and incredible creativity.

Strangely enough, when hearing the above tale, an acquaintance remarked that she thought it would be frightening to have a mother telling stories and to find notes from characters in packed lunches (notes I still have, thank you very much). How crazy is that? As if having a mother who could give J.K. Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or Beatrix Potter (Mom’s quite an artist, too) a run for their money was somehow a liability to my childhood. I’m thinking not.

And now, my mother is my number one writing fan. She’s read almost everything I’ve written (multiple times in some cases). She can be tough on me, such as when characters she loves behave in a too-human manner and disappoint her (the cost to me personally is high... I’m still catching the fallout from what a character did about eight books ago). Since Mom can’t argue right now, let me say: Yes, he did it, Mom. No, he’s not perfect and it was a terrible thing for him to do, but he did do it. And he’ll make it right. So, there.

Maturity, for some, is the end of storytelling, of fiction and all the wonder of imagination. For my mom and thankfully for me as well, not so much. My mom was still telling me stories into my twenties, and I loved them. Though I do have emotional scars from the time she had me sucked into a story about a wolf and a mountain lion, and a girl and a boy, and then, with a mischievous glint in her eye, she had a mountain crush them. A little bit twisted, I’d say. I’m glad that quality didn’t rub off on me. ;)

I was never told to grow up and let my writing dreams fade. Never. Not once. And now that I’m writing everyday, creating more stories, I actually find myself complaining about my mother’s voracious need for more (seriously, she’s like a twitchy addict when I don’t hook her up with something new).

The funny thing is that this blog post was inspired by part of my internal dialogue that reminds me of my mother. Yesterday, I was trying to decide whether to take the dogs for a walk or work out at home, or possible disappear into fiction and not be heard from again. As I was in a somewhat sad mood, I knew that walking would be best, but that would mean dinner would be later than my stomach could handle. And what did I do? I bartered with myself.

“If you take yourself and the pups for a walk, you can have a small almond butter and grape jelly sandwich (my favorite thing).”

Bartering with myself. I had to smile. And then I had to make myself that sandwich (enjoy every second of it) and get my little troupe to the park, which did improve my mood, made the dogs delightfully happy, and made me think of my mother and how finding humor in silly motivations to go to the park is a part of her I carry with me always. She just has the knack for making everything a game and bringing in the fun (and she wonders why I’m always pestering her to come for a visit).

Maturity. Don’t be in a rush to embrace it. And if you have, crack the shell and find the fun again. Even the hard days can be sparkly if we just accept that there’s a reason for the bumps, a reason we don’t have to understand. We just have to harvest our laughter and carry with us our own bit of sun, because that makes a life worth living and, thankfully, stories worth telling.


Kathy said...


Debra L. Schubert said...

Beautiful ode to your mom. I hope she reads it and "gets" the difference she has made in your life, and by extension, the difference she's made in the lives of all who know you. (Like me - yay!) ;-)

Julie said...

Kathy (aka Mom)

WOW is just right. :)

Julie said...


Moms rule, don't they? You've got a mighty fine one too... and you get extra points for being one as well. Your young men are lucky to have you (and you can tell them I said that). :)

Allison said...

Wow Julie, beautiful. I have no doubt your mom is so very proud of you too. There is so much of her inside of you and I only wish I was half as talented as you with words so I could express to my mom all of the things she did to make me who I am today. Well written...I might just read it again! :) Hugs!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome post! Your mom sounds absolutely wonderful - you're a very lucky person. :)

Indigo said...

I envy you growing up with that kind of inspiration. My mother...wasn't exactly a reader. She didn't like big words in any format and dicouraged reading. I guess in some ways it ended up inspiring me to love words even more.

Your mother has an awesome spirit sweet friend. (Hugs)Indigo

Julie said...


Thanks so much. And I've seen the beautiful photographs you've taken of your mom. Trust me, those images say everything you need to say!

Julie said...


Thanks for the comment. And I am very lucky (though I'm a little concerned Mom's getting a big head after reading the post). :)

Julie said...


You are absolutely right about my mom's awesome spirt... and she's a free spirit. I've learned so much from her. Her positive attitude always ticked me off when I was younger, because she said we all had to choose to be happy (and work at it). Now, I find myself doing/saying exactly the same things. I do appreciate the childhood I had.

The details about your childhood make me respect you even more. You clearly have thrived from your power to overcome events, and I wonder if I'd have had that kind of fortitude. The thing I truly believe is that all of the events in our lives have shaped the voices we use in our writing, and, for that, we all have to be grateful for all the roads we've walked.

Thanks for the comment.

Kasie West said...

Julie's mom you are what awesome is made of. Thank you for raising such a wonderful daughter who constantly makes me smile. And I might just have to borrow your idea with my own kids. I love it.

Kathy said...

Jemi may be right; I don't think my hat fits anymore.