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Did I Ever Tell You?: A Memoir Bets On...

About the Author

About the Book

Did I Ever Tell You?: A Memoir

May 2024

DID I EVER TELL YOU? by Genevieve Kingston is the kind of book you read --- and never forget.

When Genevieve (who was nicknamed Gwen) lost her mother, she was just 11 years old. Kristina had been ill with cancer for eight years, and she knew she would not live to see her daughter and son grow into adulthood. Instead of mourning her fate, she would busy herself with wrapping paper, ribbon and cards, assembling a treasure trove of gifts for her children. Gwen would see her mother fluttering about clearly on a mission. You could feel she was almost seeing her children at each future stage that she was wrapping a special message for them, taking them up to age 30. These notes and gifts carefully were placed in a box for each of them.

With enormous self-control for an adolescent, Gwen waits patiently for each year to pass to open a present. Some are trinkets, one of which breaks shortly after opening it, and she is bereft. But at the same time, she begins to understand that the message and the token of the gift are more important than the gift itself. This box moves with Gwen for years, from home to college to her various apartments.

As the book opens, Gwen has been unwrapping presents for years. Those left will earmark her engagement, marriage and first child. But as the hunt comes to these essential last three things, she wants to go back and review all that her mom was willing to share. She tells us about Kristina and everything she remembers about her. For as long as she knew what was going on, her mother had been sick. Kristina did not want to be the mythical perfect mom who was sick. She instead wanted her children to be aware of who she was --- the good, the warts and everything in between --- beyond her illness. She never hid her cancer or what the timeline was like; she was up front about it with her friends. So people were there for her instead of ducking away. She made it all okay. We grow up with Gwen as she opens the presents, and we see how she comes to know them as a map her mother laid out for her.

There is so much here that Gwen uncovers as time goes on. She learns about her parents, their marriage and other things. We read the line “Love is stronger than death.” In one of her heroic acts beyond these gifts, Kristina gave Gwen permission to later meet her therapist. It is a huge thing to give to a child --- someone who can tell you about another side of your mother, but also coach you about what you learn. When the time was right and Gwen needed to know more, this door opened for her as well. The more we read, the more we know her mother. It feels like we are listening in on a conversation, not a one-way dialogue.

Years ago, a friend’s wife was dying of cancer, and I asked if she had had any time to leave notes for her son. My friend said there was no time. I thought about how his son was not going to have her words to look forward to. Reading this book, you will hope that when your own time comes, you will be able to share as much of yourself as possible before the clock runs out. May you also find someone for whom this will be the perfect book.

Did I Ever Tell You?: A Memoir
by Genevieve Kingston

  • Publication Date: April 16, 2024
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: S&S/Marysue Rucci Books
  • ISBN-10: 1668006294
  • ISBN-13: 9781668006290