By the onset of her fifties, Patricia Smith Wood, author of the Harriet McKinsey murder mysteries, began to think about the amazing life of her mother, Ruby Ellen Scott Smith. Ruby had overcome a great deal of trauma and unhappiness in her early years. She worked hard to create a good life for herself. She loved to read, and had a vast library to prove it. Music warmed her soul. She was a prolific gardener. She also had a love of birds and maintained feeding stations for all of them well into her 90s.
One of her favorite birds was the Cardinal. She’d seen them all her life in Texas and Maryland. When she moved to an area of New Mexico that didn’t have cardinals, she started receiving Cardinal-themed gifts from her friends. They gave her refrigerator magnets, coasters, napkins, and earrings-all featuring Cardinals.
Not long after she died, her daughter Patricia began to receive mental “suggestions” to write a book about her mother’s life. At first, she dismissed the idea. Then one day my mind started exploring the possibility. I’m a fiction writer, she told herself. And she was very good at that, having won many awards, her favorite probably being the New Mexico Book of the Year Award.
But the thought of a biography would not go away, and she began to realize that a book about Ruby’s life and the historic events happening in those years might help 21st-century people understand what 19th and 20th-century people endured all those many years ago.
When she finally began writing the biography, she started getting catalogs containing Cardinal-themed items. Coincidence? She didn’t think so. During the years before her mother died, Pat was a catalog junkie, but she never received any with cardinal themes. But after her mother passed, an eruption of catalogs appeared in Pat’s mailbox. Almost every other page featured clothing, towels, pillows, and decorative items with Cardinals on them. There was jewelry, tablecloths, and Christmas tree ornaments. It became a running joke every mail delivery.
One day, her husband Don said, “Your mother is sending you a message to get back to work on her book.” So she took his advice and went back to work. The catalogs still come. Pat feels sure her mother is gleefully laughing. Now that Raising Ruby is finished, she prays the catalog onslaught will stop.