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I never realized what a good mom I had until I became a mom myself. This is always the way, isn’t it? A really great mom makes mothering look so effortless that her kids don’t even realize how hard she’s trying.

My mother gave me a priceless gift by nurturing my gifts. At the age of three, I was already dictating stories. According to my mother, I’d tell her, "Now, write this down…" and would proceed to relate a rambling tale, which she transcribed faithfully, word for word, and saved for some unknown someday, never dreaming it was the start of a lifelong career. In this way, I learned the power of the written word. Thanks to my mom, I can pinpoint the first time I took pen in hand–January 14, 1962. I was three years old, and she’d probably given me a church collection envelope to keep me quiet during Mass:

I soon progressed to illustrated stories with a paranormal bent. My mother shared her observations with her own mom, who lived in another state:

Sometimes my mom would fill in the story, labeling the hieroglyphics:

By the age of eight, I was into self-publishing. My mentor was Mrs. Green at School Eleven. And again, it was my mom who kept this early effort. She seemed to know I was passionate about storytelling:

And that’s the simplicity and the genius of mothering–to recognize your child’s gifts and passions, and to nurture them without judgment. My mom made it look easy, and I know now it couldn’t have been.

My own daughter, Elizabeth, had gifts and passions of her own, and I hope I sent her out into the world filled with confidence and excitement. The three of us–my mom, my daughter, myself–are still incredibly close, and there is a sense of history circling through the generations.

The Goodbye Quilt is my tribute to any parent who has ever struggled with letting go of a beloved child. As Linda, the book’s narrator, points out, it’s not a transition we mark with a celebration of any kind. No one brings you a tuna casserole or sends you a card of commiseration. Greeting car companies never created a "Have a Happy Post-Motherhood" card. It’s a silent passage, the exodus of the offspring from the nest, and that never seemed right to me. It’s a huge change for the entire family, and as such, deserves to be marked in some way. In the book, Linda has the idea of creating a memory quilt made up of bits and pieces of Molly’s childhood–a piece from a favorite dress, an award ribbon, a bit of a costume. What she discovers in the course of creating this piece is something all mothers learn–that her work is never really finished.

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August 2011
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