Mom's bathroom reading, in the Owchar house
Back at the end of the shelf containing all the books I’ve read in my life, there’s a worn-out paperback with yellow pages called “By Love Fulfilled” by Noreen Nash. How is it that I read a book by one of the 1970s queens of romantic historical novels? A simple three letters.
My mom’s a devoted student of English and French history -- in some other world, with more educational support, I'm sure she would have become a successful professor of European history. Her enthusiasm for books kindled my own and has been a connection we’ve always shared, aside from our blood, aside from my being a part of her.
As a kid, I can remember reading what she left in the bathroom wastebasket. It wasn’t a wastebasket used for trash: She kept books there for, well, you know, those times when you need a book.
And that’s where “By Love Fulfilled” came in. I still remember my, er, regular visits to read about Nostradamus’ dire prediction that a French king would meet tragedy in a joust and how his dread prophecy comes true; and the terrible punishment a jealous husband takes on his adulterous wife -- he cuts off her nose -- and the way, nursed to health in a convent, the wound heals and her appearance is somewhat restored, though she’s not a ravishing beauty anymore. One night at the dinner table, I asked my mom about the nose-cutting scene and she gave me a startled look.
“You’ve been reading my book?” she said.
She didn’t scold me, though -- I think she forgot that the book included some racy scenes, but that’s OK, I was a kid and skipped those parts anyway. Instead, she started talking about royal houses and ancient lineages and wouldn’t stop. Little by little, as I finished the book, each night our dinner conversation was full of talk about kings and queens, and to this day I still bring up the book to her sometimes -- it’s a special little reminder of the unexpected ties that bind people.
So, this weekend, after our usual family gathering for Mother’s Day, I think I will serve her an after-dinner cup of coffee, sit down beside her and then ask a simple question, “So, Mom, how did Nostradamus know that the joust would go so badly?”
I want to see what she says. I can’t wait. No one else in the house will understand what I’m talking about, of course, but she will. She’s my mom.
-- Nick Owchar