For many years, I’ve written books to give to people to express my appreciation for what they’ve done for me. For instance, I’ve written thank-you books for my students at Woodham High School; for students who traveled with us in Europe; for my co-workers in Florida, when I retired from McDougal Littell Publishing Company; for my manager, Kathy Trapp, in New Mexico when she retired; for our friends Boyd and Susan Christensen, who invited us to go to Cancun with them; for my cousins so that I might spur memories that they’ll write about; and for my sweetheart on our 50th Anniversary. Lots of books, most of which were printed on my home printer and bound either at home or at Kinko’s. These were very much informal and meant to be read mainly by the person for whom each was written.
My Mom’s Always Hot!: A Mother’s Memories was different. I wrote it for anyone who wanted to read it: my family, parents whose children have died, Melonheads the world over. I wanted to be sure that everything made sense, that there’d be no misunderstandings. And I wanted someone to catch my careless errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage. Of course, I wanted someone to catch any typos that might have crept in while I was typing ever so quickly. And I found two ladies to be my “second eyes,” two ladies who I knew could be trusted with my manuscript about my boy, two ladies who, though they didn’t know Jay, knew my writing style and my heart. They wouldn’t try to change my voice from that of a mother’s personal memories to some kind of formal biography, certainly not what my book was intended to be. These ladies understand me, and that’s why I wanted them for my “second eyes.”
Carol Purkins is a friend here in Cerrillos and a member of our church. She was a teacher and is just as persnickety as I am about grammar and usage. She may even be more persnickety than I am because she found lots of things that this old English teacher needed to correct. Her main contribution was of a proofreading nature, though she gave me lots of editorial pointers. To say that I’m grateful is an understatement!
Melanie Faith is also a friend whom I’ve met since we’ve been in New Mexico. She’s one of my best friends, but I’ve never met her in person. I talked to her on the phone once, though, because she and I decided that we’d like to hear each other’s voices – hers definitely northern (Pennsylvania), mine definitely southern (Deep South). We met through WOW—Women on Writing, a website for women who write. I have taken about five or six online courses from Melanie; she is the only writing teacher that I’ve ever had. So . . . when I needed an editor, I naturally thought of her. She has edited many pieces that I’ve written for classes, so I knew that she’d be perfect for being “second eyes” to my book. She gave me many pointers about changes that I might want to make, and I took virtually all of her suggestions. Again, to say that I’m grateful is an understatement.
Another person to whom I’m indebted is our daughter, Wendy Young. Wendy is a photographer, and it is she who took many, maybe even most, of the photos of Jay that I’ve included. Her brother was her favorite subject for photos while he was alive, and she has carefully guarded all of them. She contributed some photos that I didn’t have and made suggestions about which photos should be included. Every mother needs a daughter like my Wendy!
And finally, my husband of almost 56 years, Frank, gave suggestions and encouragement throughout the time that I was writing. Every lady writer needs a husband who will take over chores that she usually does, like preparing dinner, every once in a while, while his sweetheart is buried in words. Toward the end of my composing, he gave me some words that he wanted me to include, but I never could find a place for them. Since I love them, let me give them to you here: “And so these are the ways that I’ve handled my grief. They might work for you, too.” What a compliment for him to think that the way that I handled my grief might work for someone else! Frank and I are alike in many ways, but the ways that we handled our grief were very much different. Both of us have relied on friends, family, and God, the only way that we could survive.