Sunday, June 15, 2014

What My Parents Taught Me

This is a combined Mother's and Father's Day post, because Mother's Day weekend I was in Chicago for a conference and my Father's Day card will go in the mail on Monday...

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived
first in your grandmother, Lois and your mother 
and now, I am sure lives in you. ~2 Timothy 1:5
At the beginning of May, the United Methodist Women (UMW) of my church got together for dinner and an evening program. We were each invited to bring a photograph or object that reminded us of a woman who had impacted our faith. Most brought a picture of their mothers. When it was my turn, I held up a checkbook and a pen. As a girl, I was always impressed by my mother's ability to hold a short but pleasant conversation with the check-out person at the grocery store on Saturday mornings. Perhaps it seems odd that someone who gives papers at academic conferences and writes a semi-public blog can't talk to store clerks, but I have had to consciously work at small talk with the people I run into in my daily life. I have long wondered whether that is because I have a poor theory of mind, but regardless, my mother has consistently demonstrated that all persons are worthy of kindness and attention. And for that, I honor her.

I think it was a Berenstein Bears book, but I don't
seem to have any of those. Here are some of my
other childhood books: Island Boy, Where the Wild
Things Are
, and What the Sea Left Behind.
Speaking of giving papers at academic conferences, I credit my father with teaching me how to read aloud. This skill is not intuitive, as you may have guessed from listening to a reader at a wedding speed-reading through a passage, or maybe from your own public reading/speaking experience. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my father sat me in a chair while he cooked dinner, and had me read aloud to him. "Short pause for a comma, long pause for a period. Don't go too fast!" This advice and practice came in good stead through years of school reading aloud in both English and German, during church services, and later professional presentations. (I've also remembered what my maternal grandfather recommended, who was an English professor: Read more slowly than you think you need to, and it will probably still be too fast!) I am touched that my father cared to teach me this skill, and for that I honor him.

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