My mother loves to bake, and she bequeathed this love to me. I have so many wonderful memories of licking cookie dough from beaters, nibbling the cores of pears left over from homemade jam, and suffering a burnt tongue from not letting the English jam tarts cool. The smells during the holidays were intoxicating, a mixture of buttery homemade bread, gooey cinnamon rolls, fudge, toffee, homemade caramel, and innumerable types of cookies and cakes. (Chuck says my food descriptions in The Successor are a persistent source of editorial distraction; he wants to eat, not write.) My mother would also spend hours smocking handmade dresses (a lost art form). In short she threw herself completely into being a mother and homemaker and, as often happens, left very little for herself, her private, secretly longing self.
My father commented on this when I was 16; I shall never forget his words. “Naomi, never give up on your dreams, the things that define you. Always remember to keep something for yourself.” He said my mother threw everything into being a homemaker as soon as they were married. But as the years passed she seemed to lose something of herself and became sad. Dad grew increasingly concerned and encouraged her to find an outside interest. She reached into her past and took up piano lessons again. Some of my fondest memories are of lying awake in my bed late at night listening to my mother play the piano. I remember with great fondness her taking me with her to the concert hall when she was assigned to give a recital and to the Bach Festival in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a picturesque village on the coast of California.
My mother’s love of music gave wings to my pursuit of writing. I found something that was my own and invested my life energy in it. When Chuck and I were finishing the book, I saw more clearly than ever how these life lessons and so many more experiences shaped me along my way. I look forward to sharing my story, hidden within the pages of The Successor, with you. I have now passed along my father’s council to my own daughter and to other women I know. Never give up on your dreams. Find something that defines you and refine that definition into a beautiful poem.
- Naomi Lea Sawyer