LIKE A NEWBORN baby, a blank page holds so much potential. One of those ended up being the first page of “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s brilliant novel that begins with the memorable first sentence, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”
Not me. My father never gave me advice about anything except bowling. This would have been great if I had become a professional bowler, or even just an avid bowler, someone who bowled regularly, say in a league with friends. I did not, and so all his excellent advice (he once bowled a 300!) was wasted. To be fair, Dad also taught me a lot about dry cleaning, and that has come in handy over the years. Like when you get a stain on something, the quicker you deal with it the better. If it’s something you are wearing, just take the garment off immediately and get it in the wash, or at least soak it with cold water and sop up most of the stain that way.
As for my mother, she was a bit of a radical who passed along the following guiding principle long before it became a bumper sticker: “Question authority.” I took it to heart and I can’t say it’s done me much good, other than to alienate almost every boss I ever had. She also taught me the fine art of worrying about everything that could go wrong, which I turned out to be really good at and continue practicing to this day.
Anyway, my parents were surely good people and did their best, I have to assume, but they certainly did not send me out into the world with much I could use. Whatever I’ve learned has come to me through years of trial and error, and once in a great while, from a book. Which brings me back to my opening statement about the blank page and the baby and the potential. I tried to be a good mother to my own child and thought I had covered all the bases: Baking cookies, reading bedtime stories, trips to the art museum, getting him swim lessons and vaccinations and braces on his now perfect teeth, helping with homework and school projects and teaching him how to drive (he is an excellent driver!) and eventually letting him hang out with his friends in our backyard smoking pot because at least I’d know where he was and what he was smoking.
But it turns out I was not that great after all, because now my son reports that the only thing he “got” from me, at least as of yesterday afternoon, was the worrying gene. If I could start his life over I wouldn’t say a word, just feed him and change his diaper and nod approval or disapproval at the appropriate times. Alas, since I cannot I keep approaching blank pages, hoping I might fill the next one with something of value to someone, somewhere.
Andrea blogs at The Daily Droid.