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Unknown Legend(s)

I used to order just to watch her float across the floor – Neil Young

I exchanged a brief, long-distance hello with my old buddy and Greenbrae legend Joe Lazor the other day. Joe grew up down the hill from me and we went to school and played on the same Little League team together. If everyone has one “larger than life” character from their youth, Joe would be mine. And while “infamous” might come to mind before “domesticated” for those scanning the list of appropriate adjectives to describe him back in the day, his exploits never outshone his personality. “I saw your mom two days ago,” Joe told me. “What a great lady.”

My mom’s birthday happened to be approaching a few days later on March first, and I wanted to put some of my thoughts about her in writing, but couldn’t seem to manage. It wasn’t that I felt particularly pressured to do this; I’ve written her in the past and typically don’t need a special occasion to do so. Of all preposterous accusations that might be lobbed my way, none could be quite so absurd as any challenging my connection with my mother. Still, Joe’s simple assertion – “what a great lady” – stuck with me. It’s a truth that I’ve perhaps taken for granted, as one who is born with unusual athletic talent does with his skill, or one with a superior IQ does with his ability to score high on tests. It’s taken me some time to put my mother in proper perspective outside the context of her being my mother, and to whatever relatively objective degree this is possible. Two truths seem apparent: not everybody gets as lucky as me, and I couldn’t put it any better than Joe Lazor.

And so it was I was talking to my mom on her birthday, recounting her exchange with Joe at the local pharmacy, and hearing about her plans for a casual dinner with my dad that evening. She was about to hand the phone over to him when I told her that there was something else I wanted to say. She waited intently while I rambled on, trying to express the above even less adequately and adding some poorly worded crap about how I always like hearing that she’s run in to someone I know because she represents the “best part of me.” Only the first part of this is accurate, and the truth is that I often go out of my way to avoid seeing people I know in public places. My mother’s skill in this arena and innate ability to make others feel good in a casual, social setting is something I’ve long admired but cannot claim to possess. But that’s OK because I probably make up for it in other ways, and my mom is always the first to let me know what those are. Had I really been on my game, I would have reminded her about the time she took Joe, Kevin Benjamin and me to San Francisco’s Chinatown on the last day of the fifth grade to buy firecrackers. It’s a decent story, and probably represents a good chunk of what I’ve been trying to cover here. As any competent writing teacher will instruct: show, don’t tell.  What they generally fail to pass on is that it applies equally to love.

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