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A Touch of Red

Today is my mother's birthday and my mind is filled with memories of frosted angel food cakes and flowers and books — so many of those — and prayers and courage and kindness.  My mother, Marjorie Good, died this year on January 2nd.  Her two battles with cancer were the most intimate I have witnessed. People ask me, "Are any of the characters in your books real people?" And I say, "If you've read Hope Was Here, then you've met my mom a bit."  I packed her courage and kindness into G.T. Stoop, the owner of the Welcome Stairways, who ran for mayor of his small town while battling leukemia.  And why did he do that?  He was sick of the corruption and the cancer made him tougher.  

"Be kind," Mom always told me.  I must admit, I found that boring advice when I was younger.  What's the point in this crass, mean world?  Be kind when people misunderstand you.  Be kind when you're tired.  Be kind when the guy passing you on the highway gives you the ultimate gesture.  We're so used to the argument, the caustic debate, the mean spiritedness, but kindness comes to us like a warm cookie on a cold day.   

My mother was a painter.  My husband always said that he learned more about art going through a museum with her than he learned in art history at college.  "Look for the touch of red," she always said.  "That's the artist's exclamation mark."  And in painting after painting, we'd often see it — some reds were bold, others just a little dab in a corner, but the red drew the eye and gave the work such depth.  My mother's touch of red was her kindness, and with it I watched her quietly conquer trials and tragedy and leave her exclamation mark on all who knew her.

5 responses to “A Touch of Red

  1. Dear Joan — I could not read your “touch of Red” entry without getting goosebumps! Thank you with sharing her with us in your loving and touching way. Oh, that family will speak of US, when our time has come — oh, that we’d hear things like this and share with others, our gratitude and feelings — so well put.

  2. Joan, that is lovely. I’ve had twenty-nine years without being able to tell a mother-in-law joke. Marge was always remarkably gracious and generous with her time, talent, and hospitality. I miss her so, but the best of her is always visible in you.

  3. Joan, Thank you for your post. After reading it, I “borrowed” your mother yesterday. I went to the Art Institute and while enjoying the many extraodinary paintings, I imagined your mother next to me, whispering her insights. As a result, the experience became much richer and less overwhelming. I sensed her pointing out to me the little “touches of red” and exactly where they were placed — small touches in the tapistry of the artwork that I have would missed otherwise. I treasure how you compare her “touch of red” with her practice of kindness. At the end of the day, is this not the “touch of red” in all of us?

  4. Thank you for this beautiful story of your mother. I am inspired to be more kind. I have red accents all through my home decorating, at one time even an entire “Mexican Chili Red” wall painted in my kitchen. Now when I see red color in my home, I will be reminded to slow down, take a deep breath, and choose kindness.

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