Echoes of My Mother

This post is in honor of To Mama with Love, part of a collaborative online art project that honors moms across the globe and raises funds to invest in remarkable women who create hope in our world. Thanks to Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, who encouraged me to take part.

Mother’s Day’s a tricky one. I’m so proud to be a mother, and so in love with my children. But there’s also the hole where my own mother is supposed to be.

My pre-married mother, probably in the Catskills

After raising her three daughters, my mother began taking classes in writing for children at the New School in New York. She loved everything about that class: the opportunity to help others with their stories, the teacher’s feedback on her work, time spent talking with classmates before and after.

And she was good. Really, really good. She worked very hard. And she improved. So she was gooder still.

Her teacher recognized her talent by suggesting that my mother send her first novel, The Morning Glory War, to her editor. My mother did.

She sent it to one editor. And it was accepted.

Most readers of this blog will not require further elaboration on this point.

I still remember that phone call in 1989. I was working at Emerson College in Boston. My mother couldn’t believe she had an offer on her book. I could. I wasn’t even surprised.

I keep this picture on my desk, which was my mother's. It's from the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow

Looking back, I take some comfort that she had this time–that she knew her book would be published. I am particularly tickled by the memory of my mother choosing earrings that—for her—were a tiny bit daring to wear when meeting her editor. She told herself artists could get away with such things. (Reader: They were pretty tame.)

I am grateful that she had a day to listen to an editor at a lofty New York City publishing house praise her wonderful writing.

She died two months later: a sudden, wholly unexpected death. People always wonder–she was hit by a car while on the sidewalk around the block from our home in Whitestone, New York.

The Morning Glory War (hardcover)

It happened before she even received an editorial/revision letter.

Which left that work to my family and me. While we understood the task at hand, we also wanted to leave everything intact. It broke our hearts to even entertain changing a word.  Those were HER words. (The poor editor!) Somehow, we made it through that emotionally charged revision process.

All these years later, we have the book, this miraculous book, based on my mother’s childhood in Brooklyn. My children, born many years after my mother died, have read this book and know their grandmother in a way I would have never been able to convey. They know her voice. They know things about her relationship with her best friend. They have glimpses into her sense of humor, and her sense of justice. For my daughter, that book is something of a touchstone, a tangible thing to reach for when she needs it.

The Morning Glory War (paperback)

This week, I received the advance reading copy of my own first novel, also for middle-grade readers. That I write for children now could have probably been predicted by a sub-par therapist twenty years ago. But it still surprises me. (Reader: Early attempts did not go well.)

As I prepared to write this post, a time that coincided with the launching of this blog, I kept returning to an interesting fact: I am surrounded by echoes of my mother. My writing friends, more than any others, reflect her back at me.

How about the beloved friend who, like my mother, is an extremely talented and deeply humble writer who sold a debut middle-grade novel about coming of age in Brooklyn to the first editor she sent it to? Or the very dear friend who points out the patterns in my life and the strides I can’t see myself in the gentle, supportive way a mother would? Or the newer friends who, upon hearing my mother’s story for the first time, burst into tears and say, “Oh, but Audrey! Your mom would be so proud of you now.”

This Mother’s Day, I will be thinking of my mother’s book and of my own. I will be missing my mother, as I do every day.

We received many beautiful and touching cards in the weeks after she died. The one from her teacher at the New School touched me the most. I wasn’t as well versed in children’s literature then, so while I had read the book, I did not remember E.B. White’s quote. Her use of it, to describe my mother, brought me to my knees: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

I would like to put copies of my mother’s book, The Morning Glory War, into the hands of interested readers. If you would like to receive one of two copies I’ll be giving away, please indicate interest in your COMMENT. Winners will be selected randomly.

Other mother/author/advocates will be joining this special celebration all week. Check out these stunning posts by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Sheela ChariKelly Starling Lyons, Sayantani DasGupta and look for a future posts by Jennifer Cervantes.



About Audrey Vernick

Audrey Vernick writes books for young readers.
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34 Responses to Echoes of My Mother

  1. Okay, I’m in tears. Thanks you so much for writing this, Audrey. Much love to you, Valerie

    p.s. I would like to win the book, but if I don’t I’m getting it anyway.

  2. Sanjay says:

    Wow, what a beautiful post, I’m so grateful you’ve shared your amazing story with us. (Thanks also to Olugbemisola for inviting you to participate.)

  3. I am an Interested Reader.
    P.S. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m going to call my mom now.

  4. Stacey Monk says:

    I’m so grateful for all the love you’ve poured into this piece, and that she so clearly poured into you. I’m in tears.

    I’m the creator of To Mama With Love, and I believe with all my heart that love like yours, and hers, changes everything.

    We’ll be sharing your post on the site at soon.

  5. Tamara Smith says:

    Oh Audrey.

    You have brought me to my knees.

    You are surrounded by echoes of your mother, but you also MAKE echoes. Like throwing a stone in a river: you, your children, your books, this post about your mother, your posts/essays/words about life as you see it… they are all echo-circles of her. Ever expanding and flowing.

  6. Dot Crane says:

    I am going to retweet your link to this in an attempt to make the whole internets cry.

    Srsly, a gorgeous post. I knew you should have a blog.

  7. You owe me a cup of tea, because mine’s all salty now. I hope this Mother’s Day you’ll feel your mom’s presence as she stands beside you, beaming (and probably wearing those daring earrings). I’d be honored to read her book, and happy to pass it on to another one of your friends when I’m done.

  8. Diane Romagnano says:

    Yes, I would love to include Judy’s piece of art in my library. Your mother will always hold a special place in my heart….she had such grace.

  9. Tina Hoggatt says:

    Audrey, thank you for this post. I love how your mother’s determination and commitment led your way in life, though she wasn’t here physically to complete that mission. She should be here to celebrate your book. We will just have to do that for her. Have a fantastic Mothers’ Day.

  10. Jean Reidy says:

    I there’s so much I don’t know about you and your beautiful family. But I’m so happy I got to share in these treasured memories of your mom. I will order my own copy of the Morning Glory War and free up my entry for another anxious reader.
    Happy Mother’s Day.

  11. Jean Reidy says:

    My eyes were too blurry to revise my own previous post. Should have simply read “There’s so much …”
    Brimming with emotion,

  12. Marjorie Carlson Davis says:

    Beautiful story and a wonderful tribute to your mother. I love the idea of your words and her words, echoing.

    And I know what you mean about missing her every day….

  13. OH, Audrey, this is just stunning and it’s brought me to tears… I’m so grateful for you to make that connection concrete for me between creating lives and creating words — the E.B. White quote is stunning. I’m so moved by your beautiful words – and hers…

  14. Clare Dunkle says:

    What a stunning tribute! You made me cry. How wonderful that you have this book to keep your mother’s voice alive, and how wonderful that you could revise it for her and help in the process of giving her that voice. As hard as it must have been–what a precious burden!

    My father-in-law was a blue-collar man. I never saw him read a book. But when news of my first book contract came out, he was thrilled. Long before the book’s release date, he started calling Barnes & Noble every couple of weeks to demand a copy. Their patient explanations made no difference to him.

    Of all my relatives, he was the one most taken with the simple idea of seeing my name in print. He couldn’t wait for it to happen so that he could brag about it to all his friends. Then, seventeen days before my husband was due to fly home and present him with his very own galley, he died. After eight years, that still breaks my heart.

    Sometimes, what brings us closest to loved ones isn’t memories of shared experiences. It’s shared desires–the longings that we feel and long for too. It doesn’t matter, in the end, that my father-in-law didn’t see my book. What means the world to me is how much he wanted to.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I wanted to wait until the end of the day to read this because I knew it would make me cry . . . but I couldn’t wait. Now I am crying at work! It’s so lovely, Audrey. I can only assume that your connection to your mom has much to do with why you are such a good mother yourself. I feel lucky to witness (from afar) the second of the mother-daughter (and son) relationships in your life, and to use it as a model.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you.

  16. You guys! Your responses here, every one of them, have touched my heart. Thank you.

  17. Happy Mother’s Day to you cousin and hugs. Your words are very touching. Although nope, didn’t cry….. not much of a cryer. I think I have a copy of that book in my closet. I’m going to look for it, when I have a free second…..
    Your mom was a great lady, a lovely aunt to have. I’m sure she always was very proud of you and would be oh so proud now.
    Hugs again, enjoy your mother’s day with your family. I’m looking forward to my mother’s day with my kids and fiancee. It’s always a special day.
    All the best,

  18. olugbemisola says:

    No words. I have no words. Just so much love and gratitude for you, I could burst.

  19. Audrey, thanks for your beautiful essay. I lost my mother two years ago, and miss her every day. I’d love to be entered to win your mother’s book.

  20. Natalie Dias Lorenzi says:

    Okay, so you have the ability to make people laugh until they can’t breathe, and then turn around and share a tribute so tender that you bring us to tears? There really is nothing you can’t do with words, Audrey. I’m so lucky to know you.

  21. Steve Gappelberg says:

    I’m Audrey’s Uncle Steve and Judy’s little brother (14 years younger). I, too, cried but also feel such satisfaction in Audrey’s wonderful literature. I am probably the only person who saw Judy teach sixth graders. She taught P.S. 3 in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1950’s. She was brilliant. I never understood why somebody who was so good at what she did gave up that career. It would have been a loss had Judy not left her mark on children with her delightful book. While I was born after the time depicted in “The Morning Glory Wars”, the setting was where I grew up until I was eight years old and everything comes to life for me. My experiences watching her interact with some pretty tough inner city kids (all 4′ 11″ of her) must have had an impact as I taught mostly sixth grade for 27 years in the same school district. I am now hearing from my students on Facebook who are very flattering in their recollections of what I had contributed to their lives. My point, I guess, is that if we can leave great memories in children’s minds we have spent our professional lives well.

  22. Big, long, motherly, sisterly hugs to you, Audrey.
    It’s breathtakingly horrid that your mother died so young, when you were so young, when her book wasn’t done yet, and that you and your family had to somehow make it work, even in your grief, and get the book to print. What a moving tribute to her. A lesser family would have folded.
    I ordered your mom’s book — can’t wait to read it. I will cherish it. Though I’m grateful you shared this, I wish it was just a sad YA novel and not your life.
    It does reinforce one thing I have long felt was true: The funniest people have lived through tragedy.
    And of course, life is unfair. So is death.

  23. Pingback: To Mama With Love « Kuumba

  24. kelstar71 says:

    Audrey, Your beautiful words will bless everyone who reads them. Thank you for sharing your mom’s incredible life and legacy with us.

  25. Touched deeply. I would like to post a photo of my Mother here….she’s been foremost in my mind all week.
    Maybe I’ll place sweet photos of her tomorrow on my blog… Yes, I will!
    Thank you for the Inspiration…all of you whose words I read above mine.
    Happy Mother’s Day!
    from the LIGHT, Jo

  26. Kathy says:

    In tears now, feeling that familiar ache of missing my own mom 20 years ago. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. Even if I do become a published author someday, I think that nothing will compare to the honor I felt in writing a tribute to my amazing mother for her funeral. I only hope I did her proud. I would love to win a copy of the book!

  27. Thank you for sharing this story! My mother loved to write too. She wrote short stories that have sadly disappeared into the ether. But she always encouraged my writing, and do feel her echoes all around me as well. Her death wasn’t as sudden as your mother’s was, but cancer took her in under a year, which was very much a shock. **hugs**

  28. Andrea says:

    What a touching post — and a lovely legacy for your family! I’d love to win a copy of the book.

  29. Thalia says:

    Audrey, there are no words for we kindred spirits. I remember your mother vividly, and how she allowed just 30 minutes of playtime and snack before we had to sit down and do some gruelling 3rd grade homework–and then return to playtime. I recall liking the “structure”. As you have said, the power of a mother’s written words–(although not elevated to the level of your mother’s book) really do keep her alive in a way that a photo or possessions cannot duplicate. Thank you for being you, and for putting into words what most of us really cannot.

  30. Announcing the randomly selected winners.

    If I haven’t contacted you yet, please contact me with your address so I can send you a copy of THE MORNING GLORY WAR.


    Deborah Underwood
    Valerie Grant


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