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Friday, August 5, 2011

Brains

I remember being eighteen or nineteen, in English lit way back in 1961 or 62, arguing passionately with the professor that men’s brains differ from women’s brains.  His position was “a brain is a brain.”  I thought about that the other day and in addition to chuckling at the sophist basis of that whole encounter I also had to smile at how much I’ve learned these last fifty odd years about brains and the heads they live in.

Take the improbable thirty year business relationship between my sister and myself.  Way back then she wanted to weave rugs; her husband bought a loom.  There were other looms to be bought; I bought them.  We were both employed, the looms were hobbies and we set about teaching ourselves what they were about.  Jan and I are as different as Linda and I are different, but we’re both overachievers, and pretty soon the weaving was piling up.  We went to some shows.  People bought it.  Weaving took on a direction, we needed a studio.  We lived fifty miles apart, so we bought a house with a studio and all moved in—Jan, her husband, our mom, our young nephew, me.  Folks were astounded.  We heard from people who claimed not be able to spend an hour in the same room with a sibling.  Whatever.  Stuff that had to be worked out was.  The business part was a piece of cake.  Jan was the right brain, I was the left.  She did the creative stuff, I did the organized stuff.  Years later, when the weaving wound down, she was already into quilting and I just slipped back into accounting.
I think about all the “brains” I’ve known.  Linda, whose studio I could not work in except the little corner where I sew rags every couple of weeks.  My chaos is her creativity.  She tells me she sees and hears in colors.  I believe it.  Her work surely speaks to that gift. 

My daughters’ brains astound me.  For example, I am directionally dysfunctional.  When I give directions I am probably talking about “the other right.”  Don’t give me north or south, they are the same.  How did I drive all over the eastern United States all those years?  One line at a time, written on the envelope where I kept the receipts.  Neither child was afflicted with that.  I would rank them as genius simply because they could calmly say, “No, Mom, you have to go that way.” 

Beth, my oldest, has grown up to own a restaurant she built into an award winner. There’s a lot of brain work for you.  The youngest is a nurse. I am boggled.  How can anybody know that kind of stuff!  When Shelly graduated and took her licensing exam she told me that all the examinees were at computers, answering away.  Her computer shut off after 76 questions.  She told the proctor something was wrong.  Actually, you need 75 correct answers to pass, then the computer shuts off.  A brain may be a brain, but they sure aren’t interchangeable.
 It was because of the oldest I decided to start a blog.  I called her on her birthday, as I traditionally do, and in the course of the chat looked at the clock and said “Actually, you haven’t been born yet.  Not until after 8:15 pm tonight.”  I went on to say her Grandmother, her dad’s mother, had told me she would be born at 8:15 because Gramma woke up dreaming the baby was born, looked at the clock and it was 8:15.   Beth said “You never told me that.” 

“I’ve told you that a dozen times. And she did the same for Shelly, and your sister was born at 6:15. It’s wonderful.”
“Well, you need to write this stuff down.”

So I am.  Let’s see how far I get before she remembers she suggested.  She has to keep lists of stuff so her brain remembers.

Here’s a picture of Beth and me at a show at Lincoln Center.  At the time she was working on an MBA and supervised manufacturing of tire lube at a local plant.  And sometimes hopped in the van to do a show with Ma, especially those shows where I needed a directional co-pilot. (New York City with an extended van!  I couldn’t have been there without Beth and Ann, my same as a daughter.)  Shelly was married and raising babies then.  They visited Gramma at shows and those grandbabies thought Gramma lived in a tent!

So, to that English professor, a brain is not a brain, a brain is what you do with it, whether you’re a man or a woman.  I’ve sure enjoyed figuring that out.

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