It's that time of year when we all have a chance to say, "Thanks, Mom, for everything you've done for me." This year, I've decided to give a $50 Yarnmarket Gift Certificate to one of our readers who posts a tribute to their Mom. So, loosen up your fingers and start writing! To get you motivated, I'll tell you a bit about my Mom...the woman who made me what I am today.
A curious loon.
(That's not me in the photo. It's Alvin, one of my Mom's chipmunks. He comes to the door for peanuts and has trained my Mom and Step-father to leap from their chair to hand him three at a time. Alex took the shot. I swear, animals actually pose for him.)
Those of you who've read this blog might have some idea of what my Mom's like. I've posted photos of her award-winning gardens. And I've published pictures of the critters in her yard -- everything from her pet tree toad to wild turkeys who tap on her kitchen window for food. You already know she loves flowers and critters. But there's a lot more to my Mom than that!
To say she is not like other Moms is an understatement. Not only is she not like other Moms, she's not like most other humans. She's the most interesting person I know.
Before the advent of Google, I had Mom to answer all my questions. I swear to God that I'd be sitting in business meetings and a subject would come up -- like maybe plate tectonics -- and we'd have a question that needed answering. It could be on any topic. I'd say, "Let's phone my Mom!" and we'd get on the speaker phone.
"Hi, Mom. I'm in a meeting right now. We need to know what happens when continental plates collide."
Mom could happily explain it to us...complete with names of the different plates, what direction they're moving in, and how it's all going to end up. She could start from Pangea and work her way up to the most recent quake along the Ring of Fire.
Or, maybe I'd be in a meeting and someone would look out the window at the gardens in our corporate campus and say wistfully, "A host of golden daffodils." Someone else would ask, "What's that from?"
We'd phone my Mom and she could recite the entire Wordsworth poem for us, "I wandered lonely as a cloud..." and she might even tell us where he was when he wrote it. (Dove Cottage in the Lake District.)
Over the years, Mom answered a gazillion different questions for us.
Who sang the song, Runaround Sue? Dion. In what year did William the Conqueror conquer? 1066. Who were Northern Dancer's parents? Nearctic and Natalma. What are all the inert gasses? Helium. Neon. Argon. Krypton. Xenon (my favorite). And Radon. How fast does a Cessna 150 have to be going to lift off? 100 km per hour. Which oil well in Texas was shut down this month for repairs? Lambert 6. What did Alan Greenspan say this morning that caused the Dow to plummet? He's holding the Fed rate. What did Zarathustra spake? It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right - especially when one is right. How do you install a light fixture? First, turn off all the electricity... How does photosynthesis work? Carbon dioxide plus water and light energy from the sun create carbohydrates and oxygen. How far can a turkey fly? About a hundred meters. Where can I find an igneous rock? Beside a volcano. Is it normal to have white spots on the back of your throat? No. Gargle with salt water. How much gold can be found in a ton of rock in Kuhn Zone? 12.10 grams.
There is no end to the information my Mom keeps stored in her head. And, as much as she already knows, she always wants to learn more. She's constantly tackling new subjects and, fortunately for me, she loves to talk about what she's learned. Her curiosity has introduced me to science (she gave me her copy of Rupert Sheldrake's New Science of Life in the 80s), literature (she bought me a complete volume of Shakespeare when I was 14), music (she turned me on to Supertramp in the 70s), philosophy (mostly Objectivism), economics (global currencies are her favorite) and religion (influenced by Herman Hesse and Joseph Campbell). And in between all that, she taught me how to bake a really good butter tart.
People used to laugh when I said that my Mom is the one to watch for trends, but she proved me right enough times that we used her as our weather vane at several ad agencies where I worked. We even made her a "Test Market of One" in the 1990s when I was at CompuServe, the first online service. 99% of our members were men. The execs weren't convinced women would want to go online, so I offered my Mom as our guinea pig.
We set her up with a computer and a modem and -- well, Mom was in seventh heaven. She got onto CompuServe and she stayed there. We monitored her usage and, I'm proud/mortified to tell you that in one year, she racked up $10,000 in usage. In those days, we charged by the hour.
Mom hung around the political forums, the science forums, the news wires...anywhere she could find interesting information and conversation. She never joined in on the online chatter, but she absorbed it what these brilliant CompuServe members were saying about a tremendous variety of topics.
I knew that something had changed in the online world when I went to visit my Mom and she greeted me at the door, asking, "How do I get the Internet?"
This was long before the Internet was popular, and most of it was in ASCII.
"Why do you want to go there?" I inquired.
"I don't know. But I want it."
We got her a 9600 bps modem and a better quality computer, and off she went...never to be seen again. The worst thing is that up until very recently she still had dial-up access only. That meant that you couldn't telephone her most of the time. My brothers and I used to laugh.
"She has two states of being. Online and not home."
Google was made for my Mom. And, with her encouragement, my step-father has also gone online with his 80 gazillion questions. Ralph can also answer practically any question you throw at him. And if he doesn't know the answer, he'll find out.
They're an interesting couple with their huge range of interests, and they've always got a lot to talk about -- whether it's the recent discovery of a two million year old homonid or the newest photos from Hubble. And in between that, they'll tell you about old movies, sun dogs, and the best place to get fish and chips.
So this Mother's Day I want to thank my Mom for keeping my brain active and keeping me on my toes. Thanks, Mom, for learning how to fly an airplane when you were in your 30s. Thanks for having your own chemistry set when you were in your 40s. Thanks for interpreting Greenspan when you were in your 50s. Thanks for learning how to defrag your hard drive when you were in your 60s. And thanks for sending me the digital videos you create now that you're in your 70s. I don't know what you're going to be doing when you're in your 80s but I'm pretty sure it hasn't been invented yet.
Okay...now it's your turn. Post your Comments about your Mom and I'll award one lucky knitter a $50 Gift Certificate...to keep or to give to your Mom.