Nancy Hawkins Meyer


The Wondrous Mind

When I was growing up, I was in awe of what appeared to be my mother’s enormous intellect. She seemed to know everything – from the intricate rules of grammar to the history of Manhatta to inner workings of a textile mill. She worked for hours on crossword puzzles that were a complete bafflement to me. She typed profusely on a portable typewriter with a serious, intent look on her face. When we went to Italy, she spoke in Italian to merchants and spouted off Medici family history like they were her own ancestors. At parties, she impressed everyone with her conversational abilities.

Taking Toby to the Kenworth Truck factoryWhen I was a teenager, my mother’s mental capacity magically diminished. Suddenly, she knew nothing about anything. Not anything that counted, anyway. She could still talk circles around me – analyzing my adolescent behavior with the expertise of Freud himself. But that didn’t fool me. It was all smoke and mirrors to disguise what I knew was my own mother’s true stupidity. It was only as I became an adult that my mother’s mind recovered from its temporary loss and became, once again, a wondrous thing – absorbing great quantities of information and generating intricate thoughts.

It can be intimidating, having a mother who’s an active member of MENSA, who’s eager to engage in political discussion or analyze the theme of a movie or book, when all you can seem to come up with is “Yeah, it was good. I liked the part when…” But I have always been proud of my mother. Not just her intellect or her ability to carry a conversation about things I’ve barely heard of. But it’s her voracious curiosity that has always inspired me. Her appetite for knowledge. Reading, always reading. Not just to escape, but to know everything she can.

When we were small, she would scout out interesting places for us to visit. A textile mill, the Kellogg’s factory, the Masserati assembly line – going out of her way to instill that curiosity in us, too. When we traveled, she carried a bag full of travel books. From the passenger seat, she’d read to us, tidbits of information about each town we drove through, historical background, little-known facts. Sometimes we rolled our eyes in the backseat, wanting to get back to our game of Botticelli. But she gave us this – a sense of awe in the world about us, an eagerness to know everything we can know, a resolve to keep the mind open. For that, I will always be grateful.