Today, millions of children -- and adults -- will be honoroing their mothers in a variety of ways. Some moms will get a soggy French toast breakfast in bed and chow down on it with glee, because it's the thought that counts, not the lack of any golden brown crispness on two slices of yolk-drenched Wonder Bread. Other mothers will be treated to an overpriced brunch at a local restaurant, where they'll wave at the other moms who grace the tables around them who are also surrounded by their adoring broods.
And all mothers will be oohing and aahing over the gifts they'll receive, even if it's yet another bottle of perfume, or trio of scented soaps, or bouquet of roses.
I am a mother of two. Like other moms, I've given no clue as to what I might want on This Day To Pay Me Tribute. Call me humbled. Call me selfless--
Call me a sap! That's only fair, because I'm calling you one, too.
Why? Because all week we've had the perfect opportunity to hint around (make that, command with dire motherly overtones) as to what we really want from our kids. And as is the case with almost everything we ask of them, it's more for their benefit than for our own, even if they don't realize it at first:
We should ask them to donate to their local library.
From the moment we first held our infant children in our arms, we've only wanted the best for them. We wanted them to succeed and prosper; to be happy and healthy.
We encouraged them to be anything in life they wanted, be that teachers or bankers; firemen or gymnasts; ballplayers or doctors. Even president.
Our own lives have shown us that knowledge is power. Generations of mothers before us instilled this into us--
Even those who never had local, free public libraries.
Great societies, like ancient Egypt and Assyria (now Iraq) were built on grand libraries. Even today, with the social turmoil upending the dictatorial regimes that now rule in that part of the world, the citizens who are fighting for their freedom are also standing guard over their libraries.
So, why aren't we doing the same?
Ours are being threatened by the worst economy since the Great Depression. Just a couple of years ago it took an act of Pennsylvania's state legislature to keep the great city of Philadelphia's library system from closing its doors. Scan Google and your find article upon article about closings in communities all over the country; no, make that all over the world.
The digital leap in eBooks may be forcing a move away from paper books, but it won't quell the desire to access knowledge, in any form it may take. I have no doubt that the savvy librarians I've met throughout the country can tell you that there are many readers who don't have a couple of hundred dollars to spend on an eReader or iTablet.
History shows us that a great divide in the haves and have-nots only leads to anarchy.
Once again, it's time that the "haves" come to the rescue.
In 1889, millionaire steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built the first of 1,689 free public libraries in the United States. He left it to the local communities -- usually women's groups -- to fund the books that would go inside these grand buildings.
For five generations of Americans, in cities large and small, these libraries were the pride of their communities.
Where is our pride now?
Please don't point to "budget cutbacks" and "austerity plans."
Libraries are the essence of freedom. They are home to free speech and to knowledge.
They are where a free society learns to read.
Just recently I read a post from a book blogger, Courtney Webb, bemoaning the reduced hours at her local library. What jumped out at me from her plea was the name of her library system: Cobb County Public Library System.
While I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I spent my teen years in Cobb County. A couple of its branches -- Kennesaw, and Gritters -- were second homes to me. They fed my love of books, and my desire to write.
When my own mother was alive, one of her fondest memories of my childhood was how, as a first grader, I'd follow behind her while she mowed the lawn, reading to her. Of course over the din of the mower she couldn't hear whether I was getting every word right, but I was certainly making an effort.
Now, I'm asking you to make one, too: Give something. GIVE ANYTHING. But keep your libraries a part of your lives.
They build minds, and inspire ideas.
As history has shown us, libraries are what make civilizations great.
Josie's latest novel is The Baby Planner [Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books]
"Brown (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives) takes baby mania to its illogical, hysterical extreme in this bubbly romp. Thirty-seven-year-old Katie's biological clock is ticking like a time bomb, and she turns her baby obsession into a wildly successful consultant gig planning nurseries for pregnant women too rich, clueless, bedridden, or busy to do the task themselves. Even grieving widower Seth, who works with Katie's child-shy husband, Alex, on a demanding new business venture, needs Katie's services to help him manage his perplexing new role as a single dad. But what begins as yet another vanilla chick lit foray into Bugaboo country turns into something bigger than a satire of status-obsessed Bay Area yummy mummies as Brown takes a dark look at the fears of parenthood and family, with Katie's heartbreaking longing for a child unveiling a disturbing reality about her marriage and family. Still, the message from the somber realities is one full of hope: love makes a family, commitment keeps it together." --Publishers Weekly