Cathy Lamb’s stories are full of family, laughter, and heart. Her latest, THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, is no different. She stopped by to share a bit about her new book and a wonderful post about her childhood!
A very short summary of THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS: Three sisters. One brother. A secret that is chasing them down.
A little longer summary:
- Toni Koslovsky lives on a yellow tugboat in the Willamette River in Oregon. She needed space to breathe.
- Toni has two sisters. They can sometimes hear each other in their heads, a message coming through. It’s odd, it’s inexplicable. It’s a gift handed down from the Sabonis family line through their widow’s peaks. Their mother had it, too.
- The family immigrated from Russia when Toni was a little girl. They left a lot of secrets there…and the secrets have been running after them ever since.
- The family has many crazy members and the dynamics can be mind blowing. You might relate to some of them.
- Toni has something hidden in a little shed next to her tugboat. She doesn’t want to look at it. She doesn’t want to think about it. But she does.
- Love. Laughter. Funny stuff. A blue heron, a woman named Daisy, a DEA agent who lives down the dock, a restaurant, a scary man. Pillow making, skinny dipping, too much wine. More laughter.
My Mother Kept Our TV In The Closet Like A Wretched Family Secret
My childhood was a little bit quirky.
One of the quirky things about it was my sweet mother’s utter distaste for TV.
Bette Jean kept our black and white TV in the closet. Yes, in the closet. As if the TV was a wretched family secret that had to be locked away.
Our TV was as heavy as a crate of steel and as wide as a Mack truck. It was a looming black and gray blob. The unwieldy antennae looked like it came off a space ship. It had to be adjusted, stabilized, propped up. The picture was none too clear, often fuzzy.
The Blob had a handle on top and had to be heaved out of the closet and up onto a bench in the family room so we could watch it. You could darn near throw your back out hauling that TV in and out, but our inevitable broken backs and whining did not prevent my mother from insisting that we haul it right back into the closet the minute our show was over.
Bette Jean thought the TV was unsightly and she thought that the vast majority of TV shows were unsightly, too, and should not be watched. It rightly followed that she should not spend any hard earned money on a new TV and that TV should be somewhat difficult to view.
Now no one else’s mother thought this. Everyone else in the neighborhood had a color TV. Everyone else in the country probably had a colored TV. But not us. Oh, no. Many years after color TVs came out, we watched the ole’ black and white.
That TV was pretty embarrassing for a kid who really wanted to fit in but knew from a very early age she wasn’t quite going to.
Friends would say, “Where’s your TV, Cathy?” And I would, with great shame, open the door to the dark closet, as if I was letting out a roaring monster. Or the wretched family secret.
The only thing I could compare not having a colored TV to, at that time, is not having a refrigerator. In place of a refrigerator, you would have stacks of ice in your kitchen. Or, perhaps instead of an oven, you would have a cave in the kitchen that held hot rocks.
So what were we allowed to watch? Very few shows. One was The Waltons. For those of you too young to know, this was a show set on a farm in Virginia. It was about seven kids and their parents during the Great Depression. They prayed at dinner. We could also watch the Brady Bunch now and then. Bewitched.
Only good, clean, wholesome family shows.
We were also allowed to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I don’t think my mother liked us watching cartoons, (also unsightly) but she had four kids, she was wiped out, and the cartoons allowed her to sleep in a couple of hours one day a week.
Bette Jean could not sleep in on Sunday, God forbid, because she and my father had to cattle prod four kids out to Catholic mass, hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, do not let your children watch TV.
So why the aversion to television shows? That’s a pretty simple answer. My mother was an English teacher. She believed in books. Books were far superior to any show.
She also believed that children should play outside. So we headed out the door to play hide and seek and kick the can and had all sorts of fun, and when we headed back in we often dove into the world of books.
I think of her and that hulking TV in the closet sometimes when I’m watching a show. My favorites? Property Brothers. Fixer Upper. Madam Secretary. A couple of reality shows I’m really too embarrassed to admit that I watch. My TV is up in a cabinet. The screen has to be three times the size of The Blob.
I like my shows, but Bette Jean had it right.
There is a rare show that is better than a great book.
Playing outside is really fun.
I hope to do more reading and more playing outside this summer, and less TV.
I’m going to wish you the same. And let me know if you put your TV in the closet. Bette Jean would really like that.
Cathy Lamb was born in Newport Beach, California. As a child, she mastered the art of skateboarding, catching butterflies in bottles, and riding her bike with no hands. When she was 10, her parents moved her, two sisters, a brother, and two poorly behaved dogs to Oregon before she could fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a surfer bum.
She then embarked on her notable academic career where she earned good grades now and then, spent a great deal of time daydreaming, ran wild with a number of friends, and landed on the newspaper staff in high school. When she saw her byline above an article about people making out in the hallways of the high school, she knew she had found her true calling.
After two years of partying at the University of Oregon, she settled down for the next three years and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and became a fourth grade teacher. It was difficult for her to become proper and conservative but she threw out her red cowboy boots and persevered. She had no choice. She had to eat, and health insurance is expensive.
She met her husband on a blind date. A mutual friend who was an undercover vice cop busting drug dealers set them up. It was love at third sight.
Teaching children about the Oregon Trail and multiplication facts amused her until she became so gigantically pregnant with twins she looked like a small cow and could barely walk. With a three year old at home, she decided it was time to make a graceful exit and waddle on out. She left school one day and never went back. She likes to think her students missed her.
When Cathy was no longer smothered in diapers and pacifiers, she took a turn onto the hazardous road of freelance writing and wrote about 200 articles on homes, home décor, people and fashion for a local newspaper. As she is not fashionable and can hardly stand to shop, it was an eye opener for her to find that some women actually do obsess about what to wear. She also learned it would probably be more relaxing to slam a hammer against one’s forehead than engage in a large and costly home remodeling project.
Cathy suffers from, “I Would Rather Play Than Work Disease” which prevents her from getting much work done unless she has a threatening deadline. She likes to hang with family and friends, walk, eat chocolate, camp, travel, and is slightly obsessive about the types of books she reads. She also likes to be left alone a lot so she can hear all the odd characters in her head talk to each other and then transfer that oddness to paper. The characters usually don’t start to talk until 10:00 at night, however, so she is often up ‘til 2:00 in the morning with them. That is her excuse for being cranky.
She adores her children and husband, except when he refuses to take his dirty shoes off and walks on the carpet. She will ski because her children insist, but she secretly doesn’t like it at all. Too cold and she falls all the time.
She is currently working on her next book and isn’t sleeping much.
I absolutely loved reading this post about Cathy! My family didn’t hide the T.V. in the closet but other things got there in a hurry when picking up before friends came. I grew up playing outside too, also getting good grades here and there, daydreaming a lot, hung out with some wild but fun kids, and worked as a copy editor on my college newspaper. Much later on when married, I did write columns for our local newspaper. I am in love with Cathy’s writing. Immediately, I fell in love with chapter 2 in The Language of Sisters…and laughed out loud reading about Svetlana who sounded just like my mom saying “That sister of yours!”…She too was just as upset with my sister’s first marriage for similar reasons….so relatable. I love Cathy’s writing…and am so excited to be reading this book!