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May 13, 2011

Eileen Dreyer: A Tribute to Her Mom, Who Understood That “Life’s a Banquet”

Posted by Anonymous
A New York Times bestseller occasionally known as Kathleen Korbel, Eileen Dreyer is the author of NEVER A GENTLEMAN, the latest installment of the Drake’s Rakes series, which hit the shelves on March 29th. Below, she shares a touching tribute to her late mother, who taught her how to live --- and even more importantly --- how to share.
Photo: Eileen's mother
phpPT06avPM.jpg"Life's a banquet, and most poor bastards are starving to death." The line is from Auntie Mame. The sentiment is my mom's. How did my mom influence me toward my life as an author? She died never knowing that I dreamed of being a published author. In fact, it was her death that inspired me to get off the pot, as she used to say, and give publishing a try. So, what did she contribute to my career?
She inspired me by that quote. That sentiment. My mom didn't just repeat Mame's words, she believed them. She only lived 56 years. She never saw a foreign country, or headed a corporation, or ran for office. But it will always amaze me how much my mom squeezed out of what many would call a small life. She lived her motto so thoroughly that recently, when my dad died almost 30 years to the day later, we got almost as many reminiscences of my mom as we did my dad.
There’s another quote I like to use, which is from Secondhand Lions. "They lived. They really lived." Change the pronoun, and it would have been a perfect eulogy for my mom.
My mom's choices were constrained by economy, tradition and need. My mom was a writer, too. But she was also a child of the Depression. Depression children tended to set aside dreams in favor of making sure the house was paid for. So with her family's blessing, she became a nurse. After all, nurses could support themselves. And as anybody who's ever tried to get published knows, the same can't be said for us.
She did write. But it was church bulletins and parish plays, and the most amazing letters. And even though seven children pretty much defined where her life would go, she never stopped learning. She had an appetite for life that was unmatched. She read voraciously and sang at the top of her lungs (she always said that, since God gave her a voice, He had to listen to it), and she loved her children loudly. And she had an amazing way of sharing everything she learned or experienced or believed, which, if you come down to it, is what a writer does.
My mom taught me to be hungry. Not for food (although I have an exceptional talent for that); for knowledge. For experience. For living. I, too, became a nurse because it paid the bills. But I became an ER nurse, because I knew that I would experience more there, learn more, feel more. And as an author, I've been lucky enough to share it all.
I've learned from Olympic skiers, film directors, FBI profilers, fertility specialists, reenactors, forensic psychologists, Hindu holy men, army nurses, forensic anthropologists, tall ship captains, New Orleans cab drivers --- well, I could go on forever. Technically, I interview them for my books. But every time, I learn something new, or have a new experience (For one book, I took the training to become a medic on a SWAT team. And if you think I took the training to write the book, you have it backwards.), I want to call and share it with my mom. Because I'm really learning about those things for me. Because I'm hungry. But the best part, as any author can tell you, is that then I get to turn around and share it with you. Because that's what writers do. I learned that from my mom.