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My mom taught me to love words.

We were poor when I was a kid, so we never had the latest toys. Our family of four lived in a tiny two-bedroom adobe house in the middle of nowhere, a town called Bosque, New Mexico, where my maternal grandfather ran the local trading post. The house sat on acres of dusty land, behind an old Spanish mission church, and we heated it in the bitter winters with just a wood-burning stove.

My mom was, and is, a poet, a brilliant writer. My dad was getting his PhD, and we were broke as can be. To keep me entertained, my mother would play word games. "Get ready to roast like a chicken," she'd say as we prepared to go out into the blazing sun to walk to grandpa's store. I was only two or three, and I'd have to answer with my own simile or metaphor: "Get ready to fry like an egg!" On and on we'd go.

She wrote poems for me, books of them, and read them to me as I snuggled against her, and it was such fun. I'll never forget those poems. "A fly doesn't care if he's not invited there, he'll just spread his sticky fingers through your hair..." things like that. She'd tickle me like a fly as she read it.

Some mothers show love through food, others through money. My mother showed love through the power of playing, with words. My mother made me a writer.


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