Being Mother’s Day, I spent a lot of time reflecting upon my mom and how great she is. When I look at the man I am today, I can point to very specific things that she did growing up that built a foundation for the vast majority of my interests, my career and the way I treat people.
My mom bought me my first electric guitar and practice amp for Christmas, along with a lot of different guitar tab books and effects pedals. She encouraged me to play guitar and I honestly never remember a time when she told me to stop because it was horrible. She probably told me to turn it down, but I’m grateful she never had a single discouraging word about my early devotion to learning the guitar. I can’t imagine what she felt when I stood upon an 8-foot scaffolding in a 2007 Christmas production, playing the lead guitar to “Sarajevo 12/24” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I wonder, in that moment, did she flash back to those early moments when I attempted to play a Metallica or Pearl Jam song and sucked horribly?
In addition to my first guitar, she also bought me my trumpet that I would use for eight years throughout middle school and high school. I’ll never forget the first day I took that trumpet to school. She dropped me off at the end of our gravel road to wait for the bus. I set down the trumpet case behind the car, thinking that she was going to go to work. She backed up to say something and ran over the case. The trumpet wasn’t harmed, but the perfection of the case and finish of the trumpet was scuffed and scratched, I was wrecked! But my mom calmed me down, smiled at me and said, “One day, we’ll laugh about this.” To this day, we laugh about it.
I remember the day when we got an IBM PS/2 personal computer with DOS, 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disk drives, Prodigy, AOL, “Zack McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders” and all the great things that came with the early computers. She never complained when I spent hours on the computer, learning how to create batch executable files and to program. I smile thinking of those early computers and how slow, yet amazing, miraculous and mysterious, they were.
But it wasn’t just computers that my mom was enthusiastic about, she loved technology. Whether it was the Atari 5200, the Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo, a Nintendo 64, VHS camcorders, VCR’s and stereos, she always found a way to have the latest and greatest. I can remember records, tapes and the mysterious compact disk player. Magical and awesome.
I can point to physical possessions all day long, but when I look at my interests, my mom really influenced the things that I love. Art, photography, movies, music, reading, cooking, all there because my mom loved them as well.
I can remember learning how to cook. At first, it was Hamburger Helper or Cream of Mushroom Porkchops, but then I learned how to make homemade spaghetti sauce or even lasagna, because of how great of a cook she was, and still is. She always has an answer for how to make things and that is something that I am truly grateful for. This past Thanksgiving, we cooked dinner together. That was one of the best days for me and it makes me smile thinking of the way she showed me how to prepare a turkey and how we all enjoyed the food cooked by mom and her son.
I love photography because of my mom. She always had photography books around. She always seemed to be taking pictures at key moments. I remember the mystery of her JCPenney 35mm camera in all it’s automatic glory, and the gray/black camera bag that was always sitting in the bottom of her closet.
Finally, when I look at my character, I am grateful that my mom taught me how to listen. Growing up in a houseful of women (my mom and two sisters), listening was critical and to this day, it is the one aspect of who I am that I am most proud of. As a documentary filmmaker, I love the interviewing process, and my ability to listen and draw out what people are thinking is all because my mom taught me how to listen.