One year for Christmas I decided to give my mother a book of my short stories. I had blogged a book, titled Briefs and Other Unmentionables, of ten short stories, none of which was over 2,500 words. This was the book I wanted to give to my mother for Christmas. I knew I could never find a publisher to publish this book in the traditional way, and I couldn't afford to self-pub. So, I decided to print it myself using my computer.
I searched everywhere until I found a 5x8" notepad of plain, white paper. Page by page, I printed the stories on my computer. I illustrated each story with pictures I found online. Using a heavy card stock, I created front and back covers and a title spine. I gave the book a table of contents, and I wrote an author bio with a picture of me when I was three, a picture my mother had taken. I meticulously stacked the pages, including the covers, and created a binding by gluing the edges using a baby's toothbrush and Tacky glue. Then I pressed them beneath a stack of heavy objects and let the book dry on the radiator for 24 hours. I did the title spine next, and then it was back on the radiator, beneath the weights, for several more days.
The entire process made me feel a little bit like Diane in Cheers. She had given Sam a scarf for Christmas, one she had knitted herself. All he saw was a scarf; he couldn't appreciate what the scarf entailed until she told him as only Diane could: I wanted to match the blue of your eyes exactly, so I consulted a colorist. I took classes to learn how to knit. I dyed and spun the raw wool myself. I turned down every holiday party invitation to finish it on time!
I was very proud of my finished product. It looked like a book in a bookstore. I inscribed it to my mother -- Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and encouragement. -- and wrapped it in gold Christmas paper.
Before I could mail the book to her, my mother had a heart attack, so I personally gave it to her in the hospital. Her face lit up when she unwrapped it. Unfortunately, she thought I was giving her a published book of my stories. When I said no, and explained what I had done, her face fell.
I thought reading the stories would take her mind off of her health for a while. I never asked her what she thought of my stories, or even if she had read them. The weeks dragged on with no comment from her, not so much as a single word. Needless to say, I was very anxious to know if she had read the stories and what she thought.
About a month later, she mentioned The Book. Of the ten stories, she made just one comment on the story about a woman who chose desperate measures when faced with being blackmailed by a truly revolting man:
"Well, I was shocked that you wrote about a woman prostituting herself! Where on earth would you ever get such an idea?"
Prostituting herself wasn't even the worst thing the woman did; she committed murder, too, but apparently that didn't bother my mother. Only the prostitution.
It turned out to be my mother's last Christmas. Her health deteriorated after that, and she died of cancer nine months to the day after her heart attack. She never mentioned the book again. Whatever she thought of it, I'll never know because she took her opinion to her grave. I have the book now, and I still laugh when I think of her comment.