Mother's Day

Vivian Pettyjohn
13 May 2007

My first experience with gainful employment was at age 7 as the "clip file" librarian. In 1967, clip files were constructed of news stories which were cut out neatly and taped, along with the dateline from the newspaper, to a paper backing. They were destined to accompany a written query to a publisher. My mother was a free-lance writer who, out of either desperation or genius, taught me the basics of clip file construction at a very tender age. Most likely, she needed a way to keep a squirming 7-year old busy.

She was meticulously organized in the way that she chose and developed material. My stepfather, who worked evenings as a news editor, stopped by the library every morning to collect the regional newspapers that were ready to be discarded. My mother combed through these papers systematically and chose news items of interest. She would mark these articles at the corners, and then place the pages in a stack on the corner of the dining room table. I cut them out clumsily with a child's paper scissors and taped them together because I was led to believe that my contributions were important. I had them ready by Friday, when she would mail out queries by the batch.

By the time I was 11, she and my stepfather quit working and wrote exclusively. They fed and clothed 5 kids through their writing. Mom taught me, now part of the family work force, to proofread manuscripts. She helped me with my first two-paragraph stringer pieces for the local paper.

NATURE, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest,--
Her admonition mild

In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.

How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon, --
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down

Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.

When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky,

With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.

--Emily Dickinson

As I sit staring at the scattered threads of a journal article waiting to be woven into a cohesive whole, I find myself wishing that I was half the hack she thought she was.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

About the Author: Vivian Pettyjohn

Other ePluribus Contributors and Fact Checkers: cho, GreyHawk, roxy

Discuss this feature...

If you like what ePMedia's been doing with research, reviews and interviews, please consider donating to help with our efforts.