To my mother, a paragon of proofreading & copyediting
My mother died January 6th at age 79. I owe a lot to her, especially my proofreading & copyediting skills, teaching me when I wrote reports for school, showing me how to look at them critically & how to tell when something needed to be fixed. Mom went to UCLA and studied English, and I nearly followed in her footsteps until I realized I was taking more History classes than English, so I switched over, thereby following in my *father’s* footsteps. But her lessons in how to write papers, proofread them & then edit them have never left me, and I didn’t know how much she taught me until I couldn’t tell her because she had Alzheimers.
Mom & I shared something that seems to be rare- we’re both sight spellers, and could tell if a word was spelled wrong even if we had never seen it before. We were also both interested in Etymology, and I would sometimes mention to her how, if you think about a word long enough, *everything* looks weird, and she would laugh and agree. Of course, her amused opinion of my brother Chris’ doctoral thesis was “We could turn it upside down and understand it just as well,” due to it being a highly technical paper on biochemistry. Too many long words of more than 4 syllables involving scientific terms, biochemical molecule spellings defeated both of us, but she was definitely proud of his accomplishments .
Even though I had trouble with the parts of speech until I started taking Spanish, I was able to tell if there was something wrong with books or papers thanks to her sitting with me when I was writing and showing me how paragraphs should look, and when to create a new one. Punctuation was another thing Mom was a stickler for- how to use semicolons, where to put commas & apostrophes, and how to use quotes properly- everything she felt I needed to know in creating my own writings. I was then able to apply her teachings and proofread & copyedit papers written by my fellow students at Winona State University, making a little extra pizza money for the weekend.
She was a storyteller, telling us stories about her childhood, about her little brother Bill, their St. Bernard Snooky & how much I look like my aunt Ginny, for whom I was named, as well as their cats and my grandparents. She never wrote any of them down, and I never had the chance to get them written myself, but I hope I can remember enough of them to write them for her. I *am* going to write a children’s story called Moatmeal for Breakfast that she always wanted to write. Some of my family have agreed to let me use their names for characters as Mom never had names for them. It’s about a family of dragons who live near a castle & they *love* oatmeal, but the cook has to make enough to almost fill the moat because that’s how much it took to feed them breakfast. Oatmeal cookies are the dragons’ favorite cookie. I’m saving the rest for the story, and you’ll have to read it when it comes out to find out more.
Another thing about my mother was how proud she was of my ability to write, my imagination and my poetry. She was also proud of my sister Kate’s artistic skills- both are traits we inherited from her as well. When Kate & I were in jr. high/high school, we created cards for family & friends as the KGB Card Company- Kate & GInni Berger -and we’re even part Ukrainian! It took us 2 hours to get Mom to sign the first card because it was for our friend Rachel’s mother- Kate drew wilting flowers on the front of the card and the poem I wrote was “The roses are always recalled, the violets are somewhat bruised, hope your birthday’s great and you get your license renewed.” To have this make sense, Rachel’s parents owned a plant nursery in Morro Bay, California. But Mom was very amused that Kate & I figured out how to use our initials to have fun. In high school, I took Honorable Mention in the White Bear Lake Arts Council Writing contest with a poem about our church choir director. It was my first contest and I was totally surprised, and she was so excited that my talents were recognized. Kate’s art is exceptional, and she’s now a professional artist.
There’s so many things she gave me, and Kate, artistically; my writing, Kate’s ability to draw (not to mention her remembering to put tabs on paper doll clothes!), paint & do beautiful calligraphy. I still don’t know everything I learned from her until it becomes necessary, but I *do* know that she was the best teacher I ever had, and I know she’s proud of my following my skills & dreams.
Janine Blevens Berger
October 13, 1932- January 6, 2012