Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I recently listened to two audiobooks from Macmillan Audio that fit the day. If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for a special mom in your life, here are two good options.
“Motherhood is a kaleidoscopic subject,” Liane Hansen writes in the foreword of A Mother's Gift: An Inspiring Collection of This I Believe Essays Celebrating Motherhood with a sentence that perfectly captures the essence of both motherhood and the anthology. This edition, edited by NPR’s Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, contains 20 essays taken from the first two This I Believe audiobooks.
Did you read last week's 5 Minutes for Books on The Anti-Romantic Child?
Each essay relates in some way to motherhood. Some cover what the author learned from his or her mother—tolerance, to be the best you can be, trust, how to start life over again after a loss. In “There Is No Job More Important Than Parenting,” Benjamin Carson talks about having to submit written book reports on library books to his mother, only to later find out that she was illiterate with a third grade education. His mother’s support enabled him to become a doctor.
I flagged so many quotes from these stories. One of my favorites is from Joel Engardio’s “Learning True Tolerance”: “We don’t have to be each other’s cup of tea, but tolerance lets a variety of kettles peacefully share the stove.” Engardio grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness but ultimately chose not to become one himself. His comment that they know we’re hiding made me laugh.
In contrast, other writers covered the parenting side with love and honesty popping up in several of the essays and losing a child in others. To come through something so horrible—due to illness, suicide, heroin addiction—and strive to educate others is admirable. Annaliese Jakimides put it best with this quote: “It gave me the lens to see through everything. I believe in a silver lining.”
While A Mother’s Gift could be enjoyed by anyone, Morning Song: Poems for New Parents, edited by Susan Todd and Carol Purington, is an anthology of poems intended for impending and new parents. It began as a gift for an expected first grandchild and grew into something much more. “Most of our choices are intended to honor and engage and speak to the inner life of mothers and fathers.”
The poems are short—on average one to two minutes—which allows for listening in bits and pieces: while nursing in the middle of the night, relaxing during a nap (sleeping while they sleep is a nice thought but not always possible), or even during tummy time. Poets range from the classics, including Shakespeare, Longfellow, Yeats, to the more recent, Sylvia Plath, A.A. Milne, Langston Hughes, to contemporary works of Barbara Kingsolver, David Stanford Burr and Rebecca Okrent.
The 66 poems are organized in a natural order—pregnancy, childbirth, those first few newborn days of sleepless nights and nonstop breastfeeding, then childhood, and are written for children as well as parents. While a handful of poems are narrated by their authors, most are read by a handful of talented performers. They have the incredible ability to transform their voices and speech patterns to fit the poems, and if I weren’t reading the liner notes I would not have known it was often the same person reading several different poems.
A Mother’s Gift and Morning Song both make great gifts to any mom in your life, whether natural, adoptive or honorary.
Nancy Talan is a software tester and book reviewer at 5 Minutes for Books, two careers that couldn't be more different but are both rewarding. She enjoys popular fiction and picture books. She moved her family to northern Colorado in 2009 where she enjoys great skiing and great beer.