Tag Archives: Mother

Being Smart on Independence Day

Independence Day reminds me that I am the smart one.

Just over 21 years ago today, my parents relocated to Montana from our former home nearby Scottsdale, AZ.  To say that it was culture shock is a bit of an understatement but not for any of the reasons one might expect. This was no Brenda Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210 fish-out-of-water experience where I was the cool cat now in a schoolyard of local yokels. Montana was the place where name brand clothes came from Sears and the closest Target was 400 miles away. If there was a divinely created opportunity for a chubby, socially-inept 12-year-old to fit in, Montana was it.

Mother was in a tizzy with the small-town down-homey community events.  They had never allowed us younger ones to go to the state fair, the park, shopping center carnivals, talk to neighbors, or anything similar because they were afraid we’d be kidnapped, molested, or exposed to drugs. But with moving to Montana, that all changed.  Suddenly, Mother was organizing walks after dinner time, visits to the neighbors, and coordinating our attendance at community events including the 4th of July festival at the local historic fort.

This was definitely a subset of society I hadn’t been exposed to before. Not only were there dozens of other families but vendors of elephant ears and cheese fries, and the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism featured jousts and demonstrations in the art of courtly dancing. Smokey the Bear and his ranger handler presented on the dangers of forest fires with the local smokejumpers. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 4, 2011 in auto-biographical


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Making It Add Up

Arithmetic is a beautiful thing for a data junkie because no matter how the numbers are ordered, the sum is the same.  I used to play with this when I was little to see how many ways I could arrive at 10.  Ten is the numerological representation of completion, a totally harmonious unit.  I like 10.  There are 10 fingers, 10 toes, 10 commandments.  I lived nearby I-10 as a child. Ten is an easy number to sum and it’s beautifully divisible.  There are so many ways I can arrive at 10.

10. The number of children who have had my father’s last name.

7 + 3 = 10.  Seven daughters, three sons.

3 + 3 + 4  = 10.  Three children from my dad, three children from my mother, four children together.

2 + 5 + 1 + 2 = 10.Two children born in the 1950s, five born in the 1960s, one born in the 1970s, two born in the 1980s.

(2 + 1) + (1 + 2) + (1 + 3) = 10. Two girls, a boy from my dad; a boy and two girls from my mother; a boy and three girls together.

Beautiful arithmetic doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s simple. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 14, 2011 in auto-biographical


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My Mother’s Image

After being released from Sing-Sing for embezzlement, my grandfather’s first order of business was to remarry. His second was to retrieve his children from an orphanage where they’d been abandoned by their mother.  It was tough work: The children had been deprived of their identity having been left without papers, like mutts. My mother had been renamed ‘Patricia’ and her brother ‘Butch,’ names that are as foul to them still, more than 60 years later, as the most filthy of swear words.

It’s impossible for me to tell my mother’s story, much as I would like to. This isn’t even the post I intended to write this week but I’m at my parents’ home for the weekend and it’s a timely topic. All told I’ve lived with my mother for nineteen complicated years and I barely know her. There are some raw facts: She married at 16 to avoid going to the orphanage a second time but her husband philandered their marriage away leaving her with three children. She was in love with Elvis and Johnny Cash. Her favorite color is blue. She may be the undiscovered record-holder for the most phobias held by a single person. She never finished high school but got her GED in her early 30s. With five children, one grandchild, and a senile mother-in-law living with her, and the insistence of my father, Mother earned her associate’s degree. Then her bachelor’s. Then her master’s. Then her doctorate, each with a different scientific emphasis: pre-pharmacy, chemistry, physics, forestry all by the time she was 46. She is remarkable. Read the rest of this entry »


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