Stuff My Mom Sends Me

by Abby on January 13, 2014

My mom is one of the dwindling few who still sends actual mail through the U.S. Post Office. Once or twice a month, an envelope arrives in our mailbox, bearing her signature loopy penmanship and always some marker-flourishes and an interesting stamp alongside the standard names and addresses. Sometimes she’ll include a sticker for the kids with a caption or dialogue bubble.
Stuff My Mom Sends Me - pile of mail

Inside is often a funny card, a recipe, a check to put towards babysitting or swimming lessons, and a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings. If sending snail mail is a dying art, then clipping articles out of print publications is positively prehistoric. But I like it; there’s something more appealing about an actual piece of paper with words and illustrations on it that you don’t get from a link.

(My dad, the technophile, is more of a PDF guy. He’ll scan an article and email it to me as an attachment. As a writer myself who takes pride in not only the content but the appearance of my clips, I appreciate the extra effort.)

My mom always manages to find interesting, unusual, and relevant stuff to send me. She knows I have an interest in personal essays, humor, parenting, and writing, so she culls the many, MANY publications she reads to find things I might like. It’s like having my own personal librarian. And my mom’s tastes run deeper than my usual pop culture-on-the-treadmill fare. If left to my own devices, I might read nothing but recipes and “Who Wore It Best?”

I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t always have time to read the things my mom sends me right away. Given that they take actual brainpower and concentration. Often they get buried beneath a pile of bills, permission slips, and my husband’s Sports Illustrateds that seem to multiply like the dust bunnies in our dining room. But this weekend I unearthed an envelope and started reading. It was a goldmine!

One of my favorite pieces was this op-ed by Amy Shearn, “A Writer’s Mommy Guilt.” Let me just say first that I do not care for the headline or the creepy illustration, which Shearn had nothing to do with. But her message at the end – that the skills of a writer and a mother overlap – is a really good one.

I make this point because I think a real downside of people consuming so much information so quickly and from so many sources online is that they miss nuances. I’ve seen writers ripped to shreds by people who didn’t even read their entire article or book. Most people scan, skim, click, and ‘like’ quicker than you can say “continued on page 4.” (Says the lady with 6 browser windows and 3 Word documents open, and a pile of magazine articles and her cell phone sitting next to her laptop.)

BTW, Amy Shearn is the author of The Mermaid of Brooklyn, which I heard about from writer Kate Hopper. (Thanks, Kate!) If ever there was a novel for urban mamas in the trenches of little kid-dom…

Another topical essay that provided me much food for thought was Lynn Messina’s, “Chained to the Hearth or Warmed By It?” in the NYT’s Modern Love column. I read it, then passed it along to my husband to read, and then we discussed it, like people who read the NYT and discuss it! Next thing you know we’ll be listening to NPR over breakfast. No, wait. It would be drowned out by Rabbids Invasion.

And this essay just made me laugh: The Terror and Humiliation of Learning to Ride a Bike at 33. I know a thing or two about ill-fated bike rides.

Read any good essays lately? Does anyone still send YOU snail mail?

TUNE O’ THE DAY: Somewhere in the stack of clippings I came across a mention of the band Haim. They are 3 musically gifted sisters from L.A. who all look like Leelee Sobieski. Check out this song and video, “Falling.”

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