With Mother’s Day less than a week away (and with the lovely gift she sent to honor my motherhood) I felt a need to speak about my mother and one of the many ways she made me who I am today. Though she at times denies it, my mother is a very intelligent person. She may not have a college degree, but that’s not for a lack of ability. She has proven through her lifetime and still today that she is quick to learn new things and can improve methods and strategies with ease. From in home nanny to grocery store clerk to clinic receptionist to medical billing guru, if her life went on indefinitely so too would her rise in job complexity. I would never get to the rest of this tribute if I continued extolling her virtues, so now I turn to what I want to talk about – my thankfulness for my mother’s time and intelligence, and how that shaped my own success.
When I think about my childhood, I realize that my mother is a natural teacher. She has photos of teaching me to write my alphabet in chalk on the driveway when I was only 18 months. (With four months to go, I don’t think I’ll be able to recreate this feat with my own son.) Reading and writing were every day things, as were puzzles, stories, and scavenger hunts. As I said before in My Mother Mowing, my mother could always make things fun.
One of my earliest educational memories comes from before I began my schooling. It’s a book, longer than it was tall, with colorful shapes in repeating patterns. With that book were some cards (cut out from that book or from another) and these were used to continue the pattern on the pages. I can only guess, based on stories my mother told me, that these came from the Highlights magazine course(s) she enrolled me in. All I remember are the bright colors, the size of the book, the feelings of concentration and triumph as I worked my way through the exercises. I’m told these were done during my younger sisters’ nap time, and that I would beg my mother not to wake them up so we could continue “playing school”.
The biggest influence though, the thing to which I credit my later academic success, were the PennyPress logic puzzles. I grew up watching my mother work these puzzles and share them with me and my sisters. I feel this influence was so important that one of the first things I did when I became pregnant was buy a puzzle book (and later about a dozen more). I remember that as I got older, we’d begin to argue over who got to do the “By the Nines” puzzles, the puzzle type that became popularized under the name Sudoku. If there weren’t enough of this particular puzzle in a book, we’d take turns working and then erasing them. For a time my sisters joined in, they usually did the grid logic puzzles. We even once had duplicates of the same children’s variety book (one I haven’t seen on store shelves in a while). There was a particular puzzle that we never solved, even though all three of us kiddos pooled together to work it. It was a two-page spread and all I remember about the content was something to do with children in school and the candy flavors they liked. (She won’t remember this, but Tina was the best at that one. She got us closest to a solution.)
As time went by I may have had less time to work these puzzles, but they were constantly on my mind. To this day I still seek logic puzzles, they show up in some of my favorite games (the Professor Layton series especially comes to mind). They formed the way I tackle problems today. These days, the biggest hurdle is to first master my anxieties, but once that’s done I feel better able to organize my thoughts and come up with a solution when life throws me a curve, and I owe it to my mother.
Thank you, Mom. I love you. ❤