My mother was a very patient and accommodating woman going back as far as I can remember. I am the youngest of three children my parents brought into this world. Given that two siblings came before me, my mother had grown accustomed to the (seemingly) constantly inquisitive mind (and mouth) of a child. I was certainly no exception to this rule. I would ask my mother questions about whatever happened to pique my curiosity. My mother would respond matter-of-factly with an informative answer.
She would often do so without even having to stop whatever it was she was doing. Sometimes, she wouldn’t even have to face me. We could be in the produce section of a grocery store. My mother would be diligently inspecting a cantaloupe for potential purchase. I would be behind her (but always within arm’s reach). The conversation usually went like this: “Momma, what’s that?” “It’s an eggplant and don’t touch, Honey.” “Momma, is this a big potato?” “That’s a rutabaga and don’t touch.” “Do roobagrabbah’s taste good?” “It’s a ‘ROOT-uh-beg-uh’ and they taste very good. They are also good for you.” [Note: When Momma said it was good for me, it usually meant I wasn’t going to like it.] “Is the purple egg thing good for you, too?” “Yes, eggplant is very good for you” [News Flash: I don’t like eggplant either]. “What’s this, Momma?” “It’s a coconut and DON’T TOUCH!” We would continue to the meat counter, the dairy section, etc. etc. We even passed by a kid being reprimanded by his mother for breaking a dozen of unpaid eggs. I proudly and smugly informed him: You’re NOT supposed to touch.” “SHANE, THAT’S UGLY!” My mother would then firmly take my hand and lead me onto the bread section. Like I said, she was very patient.
This type of question-and answer was not limited to the grocery store. I could find my mother pounding cube steak with a glass soda bottle. It was loud and my mother was relentless. “Momma, why are you beating up on that steak?” “It helps to tenderize it and it tastes better that way.” Another day, I was watching my mother iron some clothes. She would patiently and diligently iron this shirt and that pair of pants. “Momma, why do you iron stuff?” “It gets all the wrinkles out of them and they look nicer”. Tender meat and wrinkle free clothes; Professor Momma was gonna make me one educated individual.
One day, I was sitting in the living room while watching a show on a very small black and white television set. [Some historical perspective: there were three channels, no color, and no cable. Somehow, we deprived souls enjoyed it. Anyway, I digress.] “Momma, how do the people get into the TV?” “There is a TV studio on the other side of town. They have a camera that records the people. The camera then sends the recording using a signal. The antenna in our TV catches the signal and you see the people in the TV.” “You mean the signal travels through the sky like an airplane?” “In a way, yes.” “What does the signal look like?” “It’s invisible.” “AMAZING!”
One morning my mother woke me up and said she had a special surprise for me. She got me dressed and made me breakfast. She then drove me to this really cool looking building with something that looked like a flying saucer outside it. My mother had taken me to the local television studio. Not only that, the special surprise was that I was going to be ON TV. That’s right, people. I was a guest on “Miss Patsy’s Playhouse” which was a local kiddie show in Columbus, Georgia in the early 70’s. I learned that day that my Momma was not only smart enough to answer my questions. She was also talented enough to help me travel invisibly through the sky and into every TV set in Columbus, Georgia. Mr. Wonka, you have been one-upped to infinity.