A Story for Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 12, 2019

My mother is one of my most loyal blog readers. She would like me to write more. A few months ago we were talking on the phone and she commented that I hadn’t written anything in a long time. I agreed that that was true. Things have been hard around here, especially the last 18 months.

She said, “Maybe if you wrote shorter posts you could do it more often.” But I am like Blaise Pascal who apologized for writing a long letter because he didn’t have time to make it shorter. Shorter is not easier. I can only write what I can write, and I can only write it when I can write it.

Sorry I don’t write more, Mom. Hopefully things will be getting better soon.

And for Mother’s Day 2019, here is a post for you, and about you.

My mother is mostly known for making things. For many years she made very beautiful baskets — she was a Roycroft Artisan and sold at shows across Western New York. She has always knitted, mostly sweaters but lately socks. She volunteers at church and knits hats and scarves that are given to street people and others in need. But even more than her baskets or her knitting, my mother is known far and wide for her cookies. This year at Christmas my brother’s wife played a trick on her nieces and nephews who came over for Christmas dinner (which my mom still makes every year, she says it’s easy), she put out a plate of cookies that someone else had given them. The kids came in the door and headed straight for the kitchen in search of Grandma Currie’s cookies. They found the plate of cookies that my sister-in-law had put out and each took one. They were not fooled. After one bite they looked at each other and said, “These are not Grandma Currie’s cookies. Where are the real cookies?”

When I was growing up, my mom was known less for making things and more for knowing things. She was like the all-seeing eye — she knew everything. She knew things about my friends that I didn’t know. She probably knew things about my friends that even they didn’t know.

I think of her as a kind of savant.

Here is a story I tell about my mother sometimes, because I think it is funny and because I think it epitomizes two important things: (1) college kids don’t know anything, and (2) my mother has all the answers.

My senior year in college I lived in a house with six other people. It wasn’t supposed to be that many but we kept adding people as we looked for a house, like the Canterbury Tales or the Wizard of Oz or something. People kept joining our merry little band. We ended up finding a great house that wasn’t quite big enough for the seven people we had ended up with, but we took it anyway because it was beautiful and not too expensive and we figured we could make it work. And we did, mostly. (And we are actually all still friends, lo these many years later.)

The house was in Durham, North Carolina, where you have a pretty good chunk of the year where you can get by without heat or air conditioning. Especially in the fall, you have a nice stretch where it’s not too hot anymore but it hasn’t started to get cold yet either.

Our lease started in June, and two of us spent the summer in Durham, along with one or two of the people who had lived in the house the previous year, and one or two random summer sublet people. Then the other five housemates came along when school started at the end of August.

By the middle of October it was starting to get cold, and eventually it got to the point where we actually needed to heat the house. We knew where the thermostat was, because we’d been using the air conditioning all summer, but when we put it on heat, nothing happened. No heat.

This was the first time any of us had lived on our own in a house, we had no experience with anything. We didn’t know what to do to make the heat work. So of course I called my mom.

I said, “Mom, we don’t have any heat. We put the thermostat on heat, nothing happened. What do we do?”

She said, “Well what kind of heat do you have?”

I said, “I don’t know. What does that mean?”

She said, “What kind of heat. Is it oil? Is it gas? Electric?”

I said, “I don’t know. How would I know that?”

She said, “Well it depends on what kind of furnace you have. Do you have a furnace? If it’s oil there’ll be a big tank somewhere that the oil goes in. Is there a tank anywhere?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

She told me it would be outside the house somewhere, I’d see a big metal tank, probably somewhere close to where the furnace was. I knew we had a furnace because the furnace was in front of a small addition that was the laundry room. Even a dumb college student could figure that one out.

I said, “Okay, let me go look. I’ll call you back.”

So I went outside and walked around the house, and on the north side, next to the wall of the room with the furnace was a big metal tank.

I went back inside and called my mom.

I said, “Yes, there’s a big tank outside.”

She said, “Well then you have an oil furnace. You need to get oil.”

I said, “How do we do that?”

She said, “You call the oil company and they bring it to you.”

Oh! Okay.

This was 1988 so I’m sure the next step involved looking in the phone book and figuring out how to order a tank of oil for our oil furnace. So we had that delivered and — ta da! — we had heat in our house.

(Mini side story: We had heat in our house until we ran out of oil just before it was about to get warm and had a pitched battle between me, who said SUCK IT UP PEOPLE, it’s going to be warm in like a week, we do NOT need to spend money filling an oil tank in a house that we are about to leave, and everyone else who said OMFG IT IS FREEZING IN THIS HOUSE. I lost that battle. Here is one famous line from that time period: “If we have to hear one more time about how you are from Buffalo and this not that cold we are going to have to kill you.”)

So thanks, Mom, for many things, including helping us get heat in our house in 1988.

I don’t know what other people do when they can’t figure something out but I call my mom.

She knows everything.

3 Responses to “A Story for Mother’s Day”

  1. worldstouch Says:

    What a wonderful mom you have. I love it when you veer off into a whole anecdote that illustrates your point. This one is priceless!

  2. tommfranklin Says:

    My mother, likely through a proclamation of her own, is known as “The Font of All Knowledge”.

    She and your mom (Hi Rebecca’s mom! You should be proud of your daughter. She’s a fine person and an even finer person to have as a friend!) would probably get along just fine.

  3. lessisenough Says:

    I learned the dangers of proclaiming yourself the font of all knowledge when I was at Island Press. When I would give answers to obscure questions and people would say, “How do you know that?”, I would respond “Because I know everything.” Then I got annoyed with getting asked so many random questions and my friend Heather said, “Well that’s what you get for telling everyone you know everything.” Touché.


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