This will sound silly and trite, but in my mother's honor, I'm not apologizing for it. One of my clearest memories of childhood is sitting at the side of my mom's bed -- the side that faced the TV -- and watching show after show with her. To be clear, TV wasn't something that watched me -- she didn't put it on just so she could go do something else. My mother watched with me. Or rather, I watched with her. Old movies like Auntie Mame, and modern classics like Taxi, Soap, MASH and, of course, our favorite for every Wednesday night, Dynasty. (Please, what else are you gonna do with a son who doesn't play baseball?) Some mothers and sons never find anything they can truly share. But my mom always treated me like an adult, always let me stay up late to watch the good stuff, and in those moments, she did one of the best things any parent can do: She shared what she loved with me.
When I was thirteen, my mom faced the worst tragedy of her life -- the death of her father. My Poppy. Poppy would do anything for my mother, and when he died, I remember being at his funeral. My mom was screaming and yelling wildly because the funeral home had neglected to shave him and she wanted him to look just right. It was a ferocity she saved for people messing with her family -- something I had never seen before and would never see again. And I know she put that one in me, too.
When I think of my mom -- more than anything else -- I think of the pure, immeasurable, almost crazy love she had for me. I remember the first time I gave her The Tenth Justice. It was my first published novel, my first time ever putting real work out for anyone to see. I was terrified when she said she'd finished it. And then she looked right at me and said, "Bradley, I know I'm your mother, but I have to be honest with you. This book… is the greatest book of all time!"
When someone was recounting the story to me a few days ago, he called my mother the queen of hyperbole. But as I think about it, he had it wrong. Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration. My mother never used hyperbole. My mother actually believed it. In her eyes, I really did write the greatest book of all time.
A few years ago, I went to the headquarters of Borders Books up in Ann Arbor. And when I was there the main buyer for Borders said to me, "Guess where your books sell more than anywhere else? Straight sales, not even per capita." So of course I said, "New York." That's eight million New Yorkers in one city.
"Washington, DC? I write about DC."
"Chicago, the flagship superstore?"
The number one place my books sell was the Boca Raton Borders, two miles from the furniture store where my mother worked. That means my mother single-handedly beat eight million New Yorkers. Messing with the power of a Jewish mother is one thing, but never ever mess with the power that was Teri Meltzer.
Of course, what made my mom my mom was the fact that that love -- that love that burned in her brighter than fifty suns -- was there even when times were bad. When The First Counsel was published, USA Today gave me a ruthless review. It was the kind of review that just felt like a public humiliation. The headline was: "Make First Your Last." But when my mother saw it, she said to me, "Don't worry. No one reads that paper anyway." It's the number one paper in the entire country!