Mothers can be difficult to impress, even among the literati. In an April, 1959 letter written to author Cecil Dawkins, Flannery O’Connor wryly remarks the wonderful news that Cecil has been paid $1,000 for a story. Noting her own top payment of $425, Flannery goes on to say,
Your sale to the Post ought to impress your mother greatly. It sure has impressed my mother, who brought the post card home. The other day she asked me why I didn’t try to write something that people liked instead of the kind of thing I do write. Do you think, she said, that you are really using the talent God gave you when you don’t write something that a lot, A LOT of people like? This always leaves me shaking and speechless, raises my blood pressure 140 degrees, etc. All I can ever say is, if you have to ask, you’ll never know.
I’m no Flannery O’Connor, but I’ve been rendered equally speechless by my own mother. When she found my first computer happily ensconced on its desk, Mom nosed around it like a wary dog circling a snake. ”What are you going to do with it?” she asked. I didn’t know, and said so. ”Well, how much did it cost?” I did know that, and despite reservations born of experience I told her. The disapproving silence thickened until she could stand it no longer. “You spent all that money for something and don’t even know how you’re going to use it?” Her perspective on the situation was clear. My computer was the latest version of hula-hoops or Mr. Potato Head and I was her idiot child, consumed with a child’s breathless longing to possess the same toys as her friends. (more…)