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The Best Thing My Parents Gave Me

Originally published Thursday, 10 May 2012.


In honor of Mothers Day this month and Fathers Day next…

It is said that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. In my family, I was raised on both.

Strawberry-picking, shucking fresh ears of corn on the side porch, and pumpkin bread so good it’s become a family legacy, were supplemented with the delicious cultivation of a child’s imagination through stories.

Bellies full from the table, my sisters and I next hungered for a bedtime story. We were tucked in by words–Jonah and the Wale, Noah and the Ark, the Feeding of the Five Thousand, as well asThe Princess and the Goblin, A Wrinkle in Time, The Magician’s Nephew. We swallowed them whole, and they fed a budding spiritual imagination that was only beginning to grow.

Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies author Marilyn Chandler McEntyre was once asked, “Where did your love of writing begin?”

“At the table,” was her answer.

It is also mine. It is where my parents urged me, “Tell us a story,” to answer the standard, “How was your day?” dinner conversation question. It is where I learned to listen well, to ask good questions, to savor both a taste on my tongue and a fitting phrase in my ear. And to laugh.

It is where we read aloud after dinner, sighing and sitting back in our chairs, crumbs of cornbread and table salt flung wide across the tablecloth as evidence of a good meal.

Perhaps I am no longer a child, but my days are still anchored by these two very things. I work all day with words in the life of a freelancer, and come 5pm I roll up my sleeves to create in the kitchen. These are the rituals that lend structure to my days, and I rest in them, thrive in them.

I can’t imagine a higher task for parents than to teach their children to hunger for that which is good, noble, and true. Not just for bread, but for words.

In their gift, I am doubly fed, and doubly blessed.