my mother was more intent than most on my receiving education opportunities. neither of my parents grew up with a focus on education. for most of my school years, mom made a point of being friendly with my teachers, inviting them over for dinner and so on.
sometimes it was political. a few years in, it was clear i was developing interest and skill in art. my father couldn’t see any money in that. he encouraged law, medicine, accounting—these things he understood as successful. one night my teacher and mother teamed up and convinced him to allow me to follow my own path. i’m surprised it didn’t take four or five ladies, but whatever they said, there was a clear change in his attitude which i now appreciate.
other times, my mother would get a little tip. sometimes that makes all the difference. i remember only caring about reading as a competitive event. i would do things to annoy my classmate and arch enemy Malcolm Hawker, like draw four fingers on a hand because it fit better (the five on his, i’d insist, looked more like a daisy); or, pronouncing “the” like “thee” simply because it infuriated him. before summer vacation arrived, mom inquired about how to ensure a few months out of school wasn’t a waste. my teacher, with simple wisdom, told her to buy me comic books. the theory was that if i enjoyed them, i’d read them, and that it was a great way to improve my reading skills.
she was right, of course. i went through them voraciously. it turns out even lowly comic books were well-edited, so i absorbed spelling and punctuation. the dialog may have been simple, but the themes were sometimes mature. meanwhile, i was exposed to a wide variety of drawing, inking, coloring, type, and layout styles that served me well my whole life. also, i use exclamation points liberally!
when i started piano lessons, my parents applied a similar principle, granting me a comic for each page i’d complete in my music theory workbook. needless to say, i advanced faster than most at theory.