A Mom Story


Mom (nursing a recent shoulder surgery) showing off the giant optical prism on her 71st birthday

Years ago my mother once described herself to me as "average". I was astounded. To me she was anything but, quite an unusual person. She was a creative minded person and always encouraged this in her children. While I now have a better understanding of how she did this, at the time I did not appreciate the subtlety of her efforts.

I must have been about six or seven years old when she came home with some of those strap on ice skates. "Would you like to go ice skating?" she asked me and my brothers. Well of course we would. I’m sure you have seen little kids making their first attempt on the ice and we weren’t any different. As hard as we tried each foot went a different direction and we spent more time on our rears than on the blades. It wasn’t near as much fun on the ice as we thought it was going to be. "How would you like to take horseback riding lessons?" was next. Swimming lessons, music lessons, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, square dance, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and more. I can still ice skate, pogo stick and walk on stilts… though I never did conquer the unicycle.

She offered them up one at a time and we tried them all. But there was a catch. She made sure we had the opportunity to try all kinds of activities but it was up to us to decide which ones we wanted to stick with. If we did not demand to go to a particular event she quietly let it slide on. In this way we were exposed to a wide range of activities and while some stuck, others did not. Over time it was amazing how many new and different things I was exposed to. The assimilation of ideas and skills that I picked up, sometimes unconsciously, come in handy to this day. I can tie and name knots that I learned years ago on lazy summer days at Boy Scout camp. Few people can accurately tie an eye splice in a hemp rope, but I can. (Thanks, Harry)

Looking back, I can only imagine that in the early sixties the cost of a brand new set of World Book Encyclopedias was a lot. They were absolutely beautiful books full of amazing articles. I can’t claim that I read every word of every book but I bet I came close. Arcane facts still pop out of my mind when conversations take a turn and I used to wonder where I learned them.

Christmas was always a fun time and we spent hours putting together our wish lists. The big morning would come and the wrapping paper would fly! Then a small box would appear with curious contents. What ho? I don’t remember anything like this on the list. Once it was a kit of small steel magnetic pieces that you could stick together to form all kinds of forms and designs. Another time it was a set of those strange little steel Chinese puzzles that are twisted together and you try to untangle. There were paint sets, chemical sets and microscopes. While we had our Lincoln Logs, Tinker toys, Erector Sets and Legos we also knew that a simple deck of cards could build an awesome castle. And how about the gyroscope…that will keep a curious kid busy for a while. Mom was at it again.

Now I see things like a giant prism and I think of my Mom. How totally useless for anything but a curiosity. But just look at the colors! Turn it and watch what it does, gorgeous, fabulous! There is a part of me that says you don’t spend good money for such frivolous junk… but wait. I think it worked Mom.

Hope you enjoy it.



Copyright 2017 PJ Loftus