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col Mother knew everything about everybody

And everybody got equal time

My mother would have approved of Monty, who not only remembers the names of everyone he ever went to school with but can tell you where they are now, what they are doing and how many times they have been in marriage, business or jail.

I have known other people like that besides Monty and my mother -- Ronny, for instance. He was a high school classmate who kept track of everyone we ever went to school with and was astonished that I couldn't do the same.

"Remember Ed Clamshell," he would ask, "that tall skinny kid who played basketball your senior year?"

The fact is, I went to high school with approximately 2,200 students. That was the enrollment of kid-clogged Boise High then in a city desperately in need of a second public high school. It was the crowding as much as the numbers that kept me from getting to know everybody. Does a sardine get to know all the other sardines?

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Well, of course, somehow Ronny did. And so did my mother.

My mother could give you the names of practically everyone she ever met from all the towns in which she lived. But her specialty was her large family. By the time you added up all the cousins and in-laws, the aunts and uncles, the brothers and sisters, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren, you probably had a figure approaching the enrollment of Boise High School.

The bad news was that when she came to visit, she told it all, not just the most interesting parts. A conventional news service skips the boring stuff and bears down on the juicy stuff, the scandal, the murder, the political graft.

My mother believed in equal time, in a democratic news standard. Each family member's latest triumph, sordid failure or stupefyingly dull day-to-day life was of the same value to her. She would take as long telling you that nothing had happened for years in one cousin's life as she would that another cousin had just been elected president of the state prison student body.

She arrived for each visit overflowing with gossip, prepared to spill it all at length if you would have the grace to listen. It would usually take her about three days to deliver the whole load with time out for sleep and brushing her teeth.

She had the three days worth of news on sort of a memory loop -- kind of like those videotape loops they use at home shows with the same demonstration of a new floor polisher repeating endlessly.

If my mother arrived with a three-day loop and stayed for more than three days, she would go around again, telling the same 800 or so stories a second time -- and a third if she visited long enough.

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