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  • Jack McDevitt

Blog #32

I’ve always been struck by the things we take for granted: electricity, plumbing, TV, cars and highways, doctors, newspapers. And a ton of other stuff that’s unique to the last two centuries. And not always technology. It’s nice to be living in a democratic state where the police can’t simply show up and carry us off because we made the mistake of saying something negative about one of the local bosses.

There’s something else we take for granted that isn’t unique for us, something that people have always had: mothers. Aside from the fact that, without our mom, we wouldn’t be here at all, there’s a good deal more that we might think about: the waffles, the trips to the movies, the birthday parties. One of the guys I served with in the Navy played in the minors. He told me the only reason he’d gotten started with baseball is that his mom played catch with him regularly. (His father had died early and she turned him into a fairly decent shortstop.)

One of the great pleasures in my life has been access to books. Reading. I’m not sure it would have happened without my mom. When I was about six years old she used to take me down to our local South Philadelphia shopping area, Point Breeze Avenue. We called it The Lane. It had a couple of five-and-tens that sold almost everything, clothes, dishware, calendars, vases, and other whatnot. The items that mattered to me were cowboy hats, cap guns, marbles, jigsaw puzzles, and books.

The books caught my attention because my mom was an enthusiastic reader. And there was a section of hard covers aimed directly at me. They chronicled the adventures of Red Ryder, Captain Midnight, the ace pilot Hop Harrigan, Tarzan, and numerous other heroes from the radio, comic books, and the movies. They were 35c. And yes, that’s correct, they were hard cover books selling roughly three for a dollar. It was a different age.

I was at a con a few years ago where I found one I’d owned back about 1946: Joyce of the Secret Squadron. I loved Joyce. She was an associate of Captain Midnight, and she took on enemy planes during World War II. She was not shy.

Looking back now, I can’t help wondering whether Joyce wasn’t the inspiration for Priscilla. Don’t know. My memory’s just not that good. But when I came across that worn copy, she leaped immediately back into my mind.

I’ve mentioned before that my first attempt at a novel came when I was about eight, or maybe younger. But I’m not really sure which of two efforts came first. One was The Canals of Mars. I don’t recall the title of the other one, but it was about Batman.

I can’t help thinking how different my life would have been had my mom not been there.

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