My Mom: Basketball, Bridge, Racing Form, Mathematics Whiz!
My mother played forward on the team that won the Tennessee girls state championship basketball tournament in 1924!!!
This revelation came as a great surprise to me, because in my day — 30 years later — girl’s high school basketball was a gym class only sport! We did NOT field girls’ teams to play even cross-town rivals like the boys did. It just wasn’t done. Bless TITLE IX, though it came way too late for me.
My first inkling of my mother’s athletic ability surfaced when I was 8. My Dad put up a basketball goal in the backyard. Once it was up, each of us took a turn trying to sink baskets. Mom was ten for ten. I do not remember how many my father or I sank other than each of us needed only one hand to total up our hits. Nuff said.
Not Just Basketball, Golf and Bowling As Well
And it wasn’t just basketball in which my mother was competitive!! She ran track in high school, and she played soccer. She was awarded a silver track shoe charm her senior year. My recollection is she won the javelin throw. She wasn’t a runner, nor did she play tennis, nor did she swim.
As an adult, she became a good competitive golfer. She was no Babe Didrikson Zaharias (THE reigning women’s championship golfer of the day — whom I greatly admired), but she played 18-holes twice a week in a local golf league from April to October. They didn’t ride in carts back then. The ladies pulled their bag of golf clubs behind them in two-wheeled carts — up and down hills, for 18 holes
When I turned 10, my dad began to teach me to play golf. I, too, pulled a cart with my clubs.
While I was away at college, my mom took up bowling. She prevailed on my dad to try it, and they joined a couple’s league. When I came home from college, I too was invited to try bowling. I joined the women’s bowling team at my place of employment: The Detroit News.
Bridge! She Knew Where Every Card Was
My mother also was one helluva Bridge player. She wasn’t at the Masters’ Point level and she didn’t play Duplicate, but she was SHARP. I tried. I learned to play, but never “got the bug” like she did. Wrong generation. And I didn’t have my mother’s ability to “count the cards.” By the time the second trick was played, my mother knew where every card was.
My mother, you see, also happened to have been a well respected high school math teacher in her post college/pre-motherhood days. Math, it turned out, was her secret weapon, her expertise, her joy.
My mother played the horses! She also played the dogs. I attended many a greyhound race with her. She loved to bet on both the horses and the dogs. Turned out she was a closet gambler and she used her math skills to their fullest extent. She didn’t bet on a horse because of how he flicked his ears or had a cute name. She “figured the Form” — the Racing Form! And I mean REALLY figured it.
“I’ve Got the Horse Right Here!”
Remember the song from Guys and Dolls about the horse named Paul Revere? The “morning line” on him was “5 to 9.” Well, my mother knew the lingo. She was one whiz at math. She knew how to pick ’em.
She was the true extrovert in the family. My father was a salesman, so he had to be an extrovert. But he had a studious side. He was a historian and a voracious reader. I inherited both from him.
I still don’t know how they managed to hatch an introvert who can’t “figure out” her own checkbook. And it’s a good thing I didn’t have to depend on my “sales” ability to make it in the workplace. What did I do for a living? I wrote for a newspaper. What do I do now? I write books!
The Math Gene Missed My Generation!
Imagine the rude surprise I had when I realized I actually had to SELL those books. I did not manage to inherit my father’s sales ability either. Oops!!!
Fortunately, my two sons inherited their maternal grandmother’s — as well as their engineer-father’s — gift of mathematical excellence!
Happy Mother’s Day “Ma” — as she was known fondly by her two grandsons.