Saturday, May 10, 2008

How did mom get so smart?

All through my school years, I knew that my mother, Betty Virginia (Carringer) Seaver, was a really smart person. She seemed to know what I was doing, what I was studying, who I was playing or hanging with, what my interests were, all without asking a single question. If I was having trouble with homework, she would say "just ask if you need any help." It was like she "had eyes in the back of her head." Did she have spies at school? A pipeline to the teacher(s)? Did she talk to my friends' mothers all the time? Or was it just life experience, and her background as a student and as a teacher? I think it was the latter.

I was the first child of three boys, but she was an only child of only children. She always said that she was really lucky, that she was protected, nurtured and spoiled as a child, that she was an excellent student all through her school years. Mom attended Brooklyn Elementary School at 30th and Ash Streets in San Diego, then Woodrow Wilson Junior High on El Cajon Blvd, San Diego High School at Russ Blvd and 12th Avenue near downtown San Diego (graduating in 1937), and finally San Diego State College (graduating with a BA in 1941). She was the first of her direct family line to even attend college, let alone graduate. Her parents had a high school education, and her grandparents probably no more than a 9th grade education (although I don't know) - actually that might be better than a high school education now - see here!

My father, on the other hand, dropped out of high school, went to three different prep schools to get a high school degree, and then dropped out of Dartmouth College after injuring his knee. The last thing on his mind was education - it was all sports and girls.

After college graduation, Mom received a contract from the San Diego School District to teach Art at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. This had a wonderful consequence, as I discussed in "The Wedding I Really Appreciate." She also taught Art and English at Memorial Junior High and Pacific Beach Junior High.

In our home at 2119 30th Street, we had a bookcase filled with the World Book encyclopedia, travel books, and adventure novels from the 1900 to 1940 time frame. We subscribed to the San Diego Union newspaper, and received the Saturday Evening Post, Life and Look magazines in the mail. These provided a wealth of learning opportunities for current affairs, geography, economics, etc. We discussed current affairs and had competitive games at the dinner table (and everywhere else, it seemed).

My mother was a very creative person. She majored in Art, and painted watercolors in the 1940's (escape from little boys?), made pottery in the 1950's, and created copper enamel scenes, ornaments and jewelry in the 1960's to 1980's (escape from big boys?). One of her social activities was to go to the Enamel Artists Guild meetings in Balboa Park regularly, and to contribute to art shows at local galleries.

Looking back over my life experiences with Mom, the qualities that stand out to me are patience and grace. Nothing seemed to faze her. Somehow she raised three active, educated, happy boys and she seemed to do it without yelling, beating or bribing. She was competitive without being aggressive or mean. She laughed easily.

Here is a picture of our family in 1976 - the occasion is my brother Scott's wedding - he was the youngest and last to marry. Mom's work raising three boys is done now, and she obviously enjoys the moment here. I'm the one on the left (age 32), my brother Stan is the curly guy on the right (age 29), and Scott is the hippie looking guy in the middle (age 20). Mom and Dad have aged gracefully (Dad was 64, Mom was 56).

In her later years, Mom really enjoyed reading historical, political, mystery and crime fiction books, and had her own little lending library at her home (I was one of her best customers!). She added to it every month, but re-read many of them over time. She kept her mind active until she died - she loved to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and we often conversed about current affairs, politics, and sports.

However, she didn't want to talk much about boring old Family History. She would identify photos and tell me stories about people, but she didn't really care about those old dead people that she didn't know, notwithstanding the "The Ancestry of Betty Virginia Carringer" book I gave her in 1994 for her 75th birthday.

I've always figured that I'm a chip off this wonderful genetic block - I tell myself that I'm happy, creative, witty, educated, intelligent, curious, reflective, patient (yeah, right!), lifelong reader, etc. - just like Mom. I guess I got the genealogy gene from Dad. It's not a bad combination, and I'm really proud of - and thankful for - Mom's accomplishments in life.

1 comment:

Jasia said...

Very nice post Randy! Your mom got her college degree at a time when very few women went on to college. What a terrific accomplishment on her part! The fact that she was also talented in an artistic way speaks to a whole other level of intelligence. No wonder you're so bright... you've got great genes!