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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2010

What would mother have thought of a cell phone? She'd have loved it

Does it surprise you to learn that my mother knew everything and was the best cook in the world?

I would not be surprised if you told me your mother was the best of all the rest. That's the way it is with our mothers, and today is the day set aside to let them know our feelings.

There are many ways to say "I love you, Mom." Just saying it is meaningful and easier than buying flowers and candy. Greeting cards with all the flowery verses written by someone else are a given, and if you haven't bought one yet, shame on you. They have been in the stores since Valentine's Day. Card companies give us plenty of lead-time for every holiday. Do write a personal note on the card - don't leave Mom with just your name. She knows it. She gave it to you.

I envy people who design and print their own greeting cards online. But then, I envy people who use all technical equipment to its full capacity. I don't expect to advance much further in the use of my three computers, cell phone, or digital camera, but remain at an elementary level performing only basic functions that get me by.

So often I think, what would mother have done? Because she died in 1958 at only 60 years old, my expression of gratitude for her being the best and smartest mother the second Sunday each May has since been limited to visiting the North Dover Cemetery, where her tombstone is engraved "God's Greatest Gift, Returned to God, My Mother."

A bouquet of lilacs in a Mason jar is secured in a hole dug deep enough to keep the jar from tipping in the wind. That's what she always did for her mother on Mother's Day. Tradition is comforting, even in a cemetery.

But enough death and cemetery talk. What would mother have done with all the high-powered equipment that speeds communication far beyond her wildest thoughts half a century ago? When I open a box of cake mix or rely on refrigerated mashed potatoes, I wonder what she would have done with today's thousands of convenience products. There is no question but that she would have tried them and judged them, if the price was right, but she would never have stopped cooking and baking the foods she learned in her mother's farm kitchen.

I am as sure, as I write this on a computer, that Hazel Mae, my single mother, would have embraced technical innovations with enthusiasm and a determination to learn all that she could. After all, she had converted our home into a rooming house almost single-handedly. She would not have paid to attend classes to learn, but would ask a million questions of her peers. She was spirited with vigor to win, whether it was painting the front porch in spring after getting home from the office or stripping berries from an elderberry branch to bake into a thick pie. The one thing that she couldn't beat was cancer.

I personally believe the spell-check is the most valuable computer tool, but mother no doubt would have ignored it. When she taught eight grades in a country school, it was said her spelling tests were difficult. I always believed it, because many nights at the supper table we had a spelling bee and she was tough. She was the teacher and I was her only student, and would have much rather gone outdoors to play. It was a similar plan when she decided to teach me shorthand at the supper table because it would be beneficial as editor of the high school paper.

She would have taken to a cellular phone like duck to water. As a talker with lots to say, sometimes too much, the wireless phone would have made it easier for her to chat with her daughter several times a day after I moved all the way to the big city of Toledo.

Shortly after moving to Toledo and settling in a $10 a week room at the downtown Hamlin Hotel, I made a call home from the pay telephone in the hotel lobby. I'm homesick, please come and see me, was my message. Secretly I had everything packed to return home with her. In tears I told her I couldn't understand my job at The Blade and I wanted to go home. She had no sympathy.

"You'll make it," she said.

Thanks, mother. You were always right.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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