Raised in rural Tennessee, my father still has the distinctive drawl and mannerisms of a Southern gentleman. Ten years older than my mother, Dad is a retired Doctor of Mathematics. In his younger years, he was an adventurer in the Hemmingway vein. He split his time between hunting big game, working in Alaska’s gold mines and attending the University. In college, he developed an unexpected talent for theater. In fact, his yearbooks feature many photos and comments on his singular style and humor. Even now he receives emails from his old buddies asking for him to visit or liven-up reunions.
Dad abandoned hunting after an epiphany in the Alaskan wilderness. Now, if you ask him about hunting, he’ll tell you, “I only shoot wildlife with a camera.” Since he retired, Dad pursues his favorite hobbies with abandon. He reads continuously, often fiction from 1920-1950. He devotes a few hours every morning to playing guitar and singing in Spanish or Russian. And finally, he grooms and maintains the website Ramblin’ Cameras featuring the over seven hundred photos that Mom and he have taken over the years.
My Mom was also raised in a rural area and came to New Mexico “to escape Ohio.” An expert on southwestern flora and fauna, Mom has a prodigious memory for roads, trails and paths. If she saw a clearing of Echinocerus triglochidiati between two arroyos north of Bishop’s Peak fifteen years ago, she can take you to the exact spot today (provided there is not a house on top of it). She seems incapable of getting lost, and has an impressive store of detailed logistical information for every place that she’s been.
Mom’s talents are eclectic. She can give you sound advice on automotive repair and specific instructions on making Yorkshire pudding or Hollandaise sauce. She pampers her collection of exotic flowering cacti; often adjusting her elaborately contrived shade panels twice daily to produce optimal flowering. Mom writes the most delightful stream of consciousness emails. You almost need someone playing bongos in the background when you read her messages aloud–they are half James Joyce and Irma Bombeck.