True Confessions


When Mrs. Lucille Lee taught me how to read in the first grade at the Richards public school, I was so excited I tried to read anything and everything that had words: newspapers, magazines, comic books about Superman or Archie and Jughead, signs and billboards,The Hardy Boys mysteries, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Bobsey Twins in Tulip Land, Cherry Ames, Tom Swift Jr; histories of the adventures of Wyatt Earp, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry the singing cowboy, Daniel Boone, Annie Oakley, Sam Houston and well, you get the picture.

I asked for extra books to take home from school, and I was the first person on the steps of the Grimes County Bookmobile every month – I always checked out the maximum magic number of four. I read whenever I took a break from playing outside or hid from my mother who routinely expected me to be practicing the piano since she had the unfortunate task of teaching me to play. Do not disturb. I was busy reading. I had left hot humid Grimes County for exotic places like snowy New England to check on my new friends Jo and Amy and Beth and Meg who were even cooler than the Bobsey twins. I cried when Beth died.

One day I read an article entitled How do You Tell Your Child there is no Santa Claus? I was mortified when my mother confirmed that he wasn’t real. I was probably nine years old at the time and had heard rumors at school about it but knew for a fact he was real because I’d seen him on the news on television every Christmas. The news was the ultimate standard-bearer of truth.  Now two  heroes bit the dust at once: Santa Claus and CBS reporter Dan Rather at KHOU. Shattering. What was left to believe in? Who could be trusted? At least I knew Lucy and Ricky Ricardo would always be together with Fred and Ethel Mertz. I took comfort in that.

Somewhere along the line in the next sixty years reading became less about fun and escape and more about school and studying and work and keeping up with the financial markets which in the waning years of the twentieth century moved at warp speed in a gazillion directions. Reading, for me,  moved from printed pages to computer screens and power point presentations. And gradually over my forty years working with numbers in some form or another, I lost my love for words. When I came home at night, the last thing I wanted to do was read.

The vicissitudes of life intervened, as they will according to my daddy, and I fell in love with a woman who loved to read almost as much as she enjoyed playing tennis. We met in her bookstore Bluestocking Books in the early 90s. She had a wonderful feminist bookstore located on Gervais Street in the Vista in downtown Columbia before the Vista was a hot spot and yet, her store became a gathering place for the fledgling LGBT community.  My interest in books was immediately revived.

Alas, Bluestocking closed after two and a half years, but my friendship with the owner who was also a passionate lesbian activist remained strong and endured. We were both involved in other long-term personal relationships and weren’t romantically inclined for the next seven years. Strangely, both of our relationships fell apart at the turn of the century, and Teresa the bookstore owner and I got together.

When we bought our first house, we had to have bookshelves built in the living room and her office. That set the precedent for every house since then. Built-in bookshelves, bookcases of every size and description in every room now at Casa de Canterbury in the front house and bookcases lining the rooms of the little back house we call our bodega. Still we had books on the floor, books on every piece of furniture that has a surface – books, books, books. Plus, Teresa read every night. While I watched TV and played poker on a small hand-held game I was addicted to, she read books.

Finally, after six years of being surrounded by books, I decided part of my life was missing. But, the interesting thing is that rather than start reading one of the countless books at my disposal, I took a writing course in December, 2006. Teresa encouraged me and of course, I wanted to do well. I wrote a little story about a revival meeting in my Southern Baptist church where  I heard a preacher rant and rave about homosexuals going to hell, and the teacher liked it. Teresa liked it, too, and the cliché “the rest is history” actually applied. That story became the chapter Payday Someday in Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing that was published in November, 2007.

Blogs, books, magazines – once again I have a love affair with words. This time around, though, the words are mine.  I write them. I own them. They are sometimes well received by readers, and sometimes they aren’t but they come from a reservoir built steadily by years and years of dams focusing on numbers…until finally the dams broke and the words spilled out.  Apparently, I am unable to stop them from tumbling onto a computer screen that sometimes becomes the printed page.

True confessions: I still don’t read much. People often invite me to become their Goodreads friend, and I love the site so I always say yes, but I’m a terrible friend. In spite of that, I started reading the Selected Letters 1955 – 1995 of May Sarton this week because Teresa laid it on our coffee table and because I think May Sarton is one of the best writers of the last century. She happened to be an out lesbian but refused to be called a “lesbian writer.” Whatever the label, she wrote fabulous letters to her friends and family. I wish I had written to her so she could write me back. She religiously answered her mail every day.

Letter writing is a lost art, but I suppose Facebook and other social media render it superfluous. My sense is that blog comments are like mini-letters and I love the interaction with those of you who are my pen pals; I am thankful for every reader. Do not disturb. Somewhere someone is reading.

Thank goodness for the Bluestocking Bookstore owner who continues to inspire my love for words – and for her. I think I should marry that woman. Oops! I forgot. I just did.

 

 

 

 

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is an essayist with humorist tendencies who periodically indulges her desires to write outside her genre by trying to write fiction and poetry. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press is publishing her collection of first-person accounts of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBT organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBT history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published four nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and a group of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike and Charly. Her Texas roots are never too far from her thoughts.
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18 Responses to True Confessions

  1. skye613 says:

    I for one am glad you found your love of writing. Reading is my passion. Always has been. I was the one who read every book in our very small library. To this day I get lost in words every chance I can. It is my escape from the world.

    Like

    • And I for one am glad you love to read – and you are so right. Reading is a great way to escape from a world that too often limits, disappoints and frustrates us. I’m so glad you had your library! And now cyberspace allows us access to a gazillion writers all at once – no library card necessary…:)

      Like

  2. Deb says:

    Excellent read as always!

    Like

  3. Bob Slatten says:

    Love the post.
    Your description of your childhood, searching for books, snuggling alone with a book, losing yourself in a book, sounds like my childhood.
    And i am still such a reader and a book lover–real books, not e-books–when I met Carlos online 16 years back i asked the question:
    “Do you read?”
    And because he was born a Spanish speaking man, his interpretation of my question was:
    “Do you know HOW to read?”
    He was slightly, okay, a lot, insulted. Luckily I was able to explain myself and we still laugh about that today.
    And luckily he reads as much, if not more than I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Bob, Bob, Bob…you and I should be the best of friends. If we entertained and started a salon like Gertrude Stein’s in Paris, you and Carlos would be the first persons on my list. I’m so happy you found a guy who loves to read as much as you do – truly happy for you. And I love the story of do you know HOW to read, btw. Hilarious.
      Your blog entertains me whenever I visit. Thank you for writing me back.

      Like

  4. I don’t read as much as I used to, only because I can’t seem to make the time. I would love to be able to set aside a couple of hours and just get lost in the words again.

    Like

  5. Sam Glenn says:

    I have always been a voracious reader, too, and I loved, loved, loved Bluestocking Books. It was such a wonderful introduction to a whole genre of literature and a whole group of writers this newly out gay boy never knew existed. I still miss it. Its place in the community remains unfilled to this day.
    Thank you, Teresa. So glad to know you’re still in town.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sam, I will make sure T reads your comments today – I also still miss Bluestocking Books to this day! Luckily, I got to keep the best part for myself!!
      Teresa was a little ahead of her time in the Vista – it’s still hard to drive by and see a Starbucks there now. No disrespect to coffee and coffee lovers, but Bluestocking was really one of a kind.
      Thanks for reading True Confessions.

      Like

  6. Mamie Harwood Moraw says:

    How wonderful to read the words of a Brazoria girl…I remember the beautiful voice you shared in our church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is this my old friend Jane Harwood?? If so, I remember the home runs you hit when we played softball together??!! Did you marry Bill Moraw the boy who always sat next to me when we were alphabetized? Moraw, Morris…I always liked Bill a lot.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the Brazoria girl’s words – not too often Brazoria claims me! 🙂
      Hope you are doing well – I went to visit Beth Andrews Kinser in Omaha, Texas week before last – we reminisced about our ball playing days! You should visit her…she’d love some company!
      Thanks so much for writing – it’s really good to hear from you!

      Like

      • Mamie Moraw says:

        Sheila, I am Jane’s sister, and, yes, I married Bill Moraw. Jane and her husband, Vernon, live half the year in Silverton, CO and the other half in Brazoria. Jane had a very bad heart attack in April, but has recovered really well. While in the hospital she was visited by our cousin, Helen Cowart and Beth Andrews. She enjoyed seeing and reminiscing with them so much.

        Love reading about your “reading”🤓

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mamie, thanks so much for the clarification! So you married Bill Moraw!! He must be a lucky fellow to have a wife who is a reader – as I recall, his studies didn’t interest him all that much. 🙂
        I am so sorry that Jane had a bad heart attack but glad she is recovering well. Please let her know that for me, and I’m so glad Helen and Beth were able to visit with her…
        You should try my books if you enjoy the blogs…thank you again for letting me know the connections, and thank you again for “reading.”

        Like

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