Ed Pfeifer: Mom’s lessons continue to guide, inspire
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | 1:30 AM
When my children were young, I loved to tell them stories. I created a cast of characters with funny accents and wild appearances and sent them on comical journeys through weird and interesting places. The kids howled at the stories, the players and the exotic lands in which they lived.
Those stories were wrangled from the right side of my brain, blended with adrenaline and then performed — as much as told — to an audience of my own flesh and blood who applauded and begged for more. Okay, the stories weren’t that great, but my kids thought they were, which was good enough for me. All that creating and telling constitute some of the best times of my life.
So why or how does a guy like me, a guy who has spent so much time turning wrenches, threading pipe and pointing bricks, find such deep gratification in the artsy and emotional world of creative fantasy? The answer is simple: My mom taught me, at a young age, that all that stuff is cool. The trades, the toil, the imaginative and the expressive should, according to her, be embraced. That tidbit is perhaps the greatest and most wonderful thing my mom ever taught me.
Throughout her life, my mother has been equally comfortable filling her hands with everything from a screaming weed-whacker to the light and shabby pages of a good paperback book. Likewise, she’s not bad at painting a front porch but excels at painting a mental picture and telling a tale. Watching her has taught me to reach into each part of me, break out what’s there and then run it up the flagpole to see if it catches the breeze.
Here’s how it worked: Mom would rake gravel to fill potholes in our driveway, and I (Little Eddie) would rake with her, behind her, always impressed with her strength and toughness. Then, in the midst of our work, she would tell a funny tale of her childhood, always allowing a little space in there for me to color the story with the paint and brushes of my own imagination. Together we would laugh at the story, never ignoring the gravel and potholes.
It’s all those multi-faceted lessons, those collisions of art and grit, those days of sweat and laughter that allowed me to pursue adventures as diverse as ditch digging and column writing. It is that freedom to do it all demonstrated by my mom that afforded me the great experience of telling tall tales to my small kids then sending them off to bed so I could fix the toilet.
This May, I will, for sure, clean up my mulch beds and patch my broken lawn mower — rewarding tasks in their own right. But if I’m lucky, I will also get to see my 5-year-old nephew, tell him a story, watch his eyes light up and hear him laugh. If all that happens, my day, my month — heck, my whole year — will be made all thanks to the greatest and most wonderful thing my mom ever taught me.