Monday, April 26, 2010

For $50, tell me about your mother.

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. it's your turn. Post your Comments about your Mom and I'll award one lucky knitter a $50 Gift keep or to give to your Mom.


debd94 said...

My Mom is an amazing knitter. She really had no choice, since her mother, my grandmother, was a master knitter. The really amazing thing about my Mom is that she continues to knit, and to sew, despite being wheelchair-bound with MS, and being in constant pain from arthritis. She is always asking us what we would like her to knit next for us. We receive beautiful knitted gifts for every occasion...sometimes a pair of socks in our favorite colors, other times a sweater or hat. My Mom is a tribute to the healing power of knitting, and to unselfishly making gifts for others. I am thankful that she has passed along the love of knitting to me. I would give the gift certificate to her, so that she can buy yarn for her next project.

Nikki said...

My grandmother is the one who raised me. She was in her 40s when she decided that she needed to take care of my twin sister and my older brother and myself. She is an amazing woman. I wouldn't be who i am if it wasn't for her. She showed me how to craft and crochet. I can still go to her for questions. Everyone has their share of heartache, but she turned my heartbreak into something wonderful.

bloberry said...

Not commenting about my Mom, but I really enjoyed reading about my cousin! Now I know where you get your natural curiosity. How cool. I remember sitting in your kitchen with you when we were 14-15 or so and watching you read through the Wall Street Journal. You explained to me exactly how that worked. LOL! This would be a nice addition to the family tree data. Happy Mom's day to you AND Mom! ~ Jan

Mary LeMaster said...

Uhm I dont know how to go about this, My mother was a VERY sick woman with mental disorders, addictions, and so on. I was a burden and she ignored me most of life until she died when I was 26. But the wonderful thing is,, it had inspired me to be the BEST mom I can possibly be. I love all 4 of my kids in a way I NEVER thought I could love anyone. I hope when they are older that we still hold a close relationship. I love hearing what people do with thier moms or love about thier moms. It makes me happy for all the people who have them. What a great question and to take a few moments to share about thier love!!

Deborah Knight said...

Mary, it's wonderful that you transformed your sad experience into something beautiful for your own family! I'm sure you are much loved and appreciated and that someday your children will also be wonderful parents!


Deborah Knight said...

Bloberry, I didn't realize I was a nerd at that age! I didn't think it kicked in until I was...oh...17 or 18! My Mom (your cousin) read what I wrote about her and said that if she ever needs to get a job, she'll have me write her resume.

You know, that reminds me, she's one heck of a writer, too! When we were kids we used to get such a kick out of the original birthday cards she'd create for us.

When my older brother turned 11 she wrote this poem for him:
Your hair is long
Your clothes are mod
You're strictly Carnaby Street
But I'm the only one who knows
That underneath those pointed toes
You never wash your feet.

I must have thought it was awfully funny because I haven't seen that card in 46 years and I still remember it.

When we were teenagers and were driving her insane she used to write letters to an imaginary psychiatrist, Dr. Bastedo. They were absolutely hysterical.

Before she ever met Alex, she sent him postcards from wherever she traveled with messages like, "Glad you're not here!" and "Thunder Bay hails your absence!"

I guess that we can blame my Mom for how I turned out. When other kids would say, "My Mom's gone to the PTA meeting," I'd say, "My Mom's out in the backyard teaching herself how to use a crossbow."

And do you know what? She got to be pretty darned good with that thing! She was the only mother in our suburban Toronto neighborhood who had her very own crossbow.

Laurie said...

My mother was simply the most intelligent, most talented, most creative woman I will ever know. She could play several instruments at a professional level, though she was never a professional musician. She could analyze current events, especially politics and predict with amazing accuracy what people or parties were going to do/say next. She knit beautiful sweaters, and worked for many years as a professional steamstress, making party dresses and even wedding gowns. She had a huge clientele, many of whom became lifelong friends. She cooked the most delicious meals and grew the most beautiful flowers. And she was funny...I will never laugh as hard or as long as I did with my mother. I remember laughing so hard at something she said that I literally fell off the sofa, which only made us both laugh more. She has been gone a little over ten years now, and while I miss all of her amazing creative energy, what I miss the most is the laughter.

kim ventura said...

my mother says "i could never create the way you do"...but mom, it's because of you that i create!!

mom taught me to sew before i could write...starting with a head scarf and always telling me "i'll buy all the fabric that you can sew", even though we sometimes had barely enough money to get by. i remember running my fingers through the cables on a blue cardigan she knit when i was little and thinking she had to be the most talented woman on earth!!

and i still think so today....she was an amazing seamstress, mother, fabulous cook, school volunteer, bookkeeper to my fathers business and always a cheerleader for her three children....she's still always there to listen to my woes, telling me not to worry, things always get easier.

she taught me to bake from scratch, press as you sew, clean up as you cook...and always remember to laugh. she's a jewel and a very precious one at that.

Nanamamah said...

My Mom is one of the gamest, toughest women I've ever met. She came to visit me once when I lived in another state.
"Why is your laundry hanging all over the bathroom?"
"The dryer is broken"
"Why aren't you hanging them outside?"
"No clothesline"
"hhmm. Where's the nearest hardware store?"
She went to the store, bought a shovel, concrete, pole, line, etc., came back, dug the holes, mixed the concrete and put up the poles.
She has this attitude and energy towards everything in life, and even though she is fast approaching 80, she is still doing more than most, volunteering for numerous organizations and provides respite care for disabled youth.
Amazing. I'm so grateful to share this gene pool.

Deborah Knight said...

Nanamamah -- Your Mom sounds like mine! A "take the bull by the horns" kind of woman. We really are lucky to share such great DNA!

Anonymous said...

My mom has been a real inspiration to me. She grew up in one of the poorest areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains in VA. When a friend of hers lost her husband and became destitute Mom decided she would never let that happen to her family. She got a job and helped her friend. She continued to work and was one of the first in our area to be a working mom. Because of her and dad's salaries, my brother & I are the first in our family history to get a college education. Mom can grow anything. She brought home a few kiwis from the store and planted the seeds. When all the botanists said it was impossible for kiwis to grow in VA, my mom proved them wrong! She harvests so many kiwis each year she has to give away boxes full and make gallons of jam. One fond memory is when dad found 6 abandoned or orphaned wild baby rabbits in the yard. Mom created a rabbit formula on the stove. I don't know how she knew how to make or what she put in it, but it worked! She bought baby doll bottles and with some help from us fed them round the clock. They grew and thrived. She released them back into the wild. It was a great experience for a child to have. Once a high school friend of mine had a grand mal seizure on our front porch. We had never seen one before. Mom caught him as he fell and held him in her arms until it was over. She was calm, collected and gentle throughout. Two years ago she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which the doctors feel she got from 30 years of breathing second hand smoke in the Pentagon where she worked. Bladder removal is one of the most difficult surgeries to undergo, but my 84 year old mom survived the 8 weeks in intensive care and hospital borne infection. She is 86 now and in good health. She has taught me that with determination, self confidence and hard work I can do anything I set my mind to.

Ninja Ryder said...

Thanks for the opportunity to share a little bit about my mom. This will be my third Mother's Day without her, so I will think of this tribute as my "card" to her.

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother's Day! Thank you for encouraging my strength and independence. Today, I'm grateful that you didn't blaze paths for me but insisted I take the lead.

You didn't walk me to the school bus, but you watched from the window. You didn't drive in carpools, but you got me a bike. You didn't go clothes shopping with me, but you taught me to use the Singer and let me "borrow" your good shears.

I was always such a fraidy cat -- I'd run home whining "But Mom.....But Mommmmmm they SAID, they THINK, they TOLD ME" and there you'd be, encouraging me to go back "out there". You'd say "Oh what do you care what people think."

Well, I cared a lot about what people thought. A lot. You drove me crazy and made my stomach flip and my knees wiggle. But I learned to do things for myself.

We would knit together. I remember that first winter well. There was an epic snowstorm and we were stuck inside for days. I was a 7 year old lefty, and you must have been in your late twenties :-) I sat by your side, and you let me snuggle in. "Watch me," you said. "Now here, you try it." You gave me 2 blue needles and some grey wool. I watched and twisted and watched again and tangled and watched again and stabbed myself and then I got it, sort of.

I was so happy when you asked me if I'd knit you a brown scarf with some yarn from your big basket. And then you wore it all through the winter and spring.

I swore I would be more nurturing, "different" when I had my daughter. But she came home from school, crying over a playground game, and without skipping a beat I said "Oh what do you care what people think", and I smiled.

Thanks Mom, for all the adventures I would have missed if I stayed behind your skirt.

I love you!