My Mother and Technology

My mother hates technology. She doesn’t have a cellphone, doesn’t have a computer, doesn’t have a flat screen TV, no garbage disposal, dishwasher, or air conditioning either. It’s not that she hates technology; she detests the notion of actually having to use it herself. She does, however, know how to get everyone else using it to “get done what needs done”—code for do what our almost eighty-six-year-old mother tells us to do.

Let’s take a look at my mother and technology and see how she navigates through this unfamiliar maze and how she’s figured out a few tricks along the way. (That means, get your kids to do the work for you!) Take a simple recipe. Mom carries hundreds of them when she travels; either handwritten on index cards, or on 8.5 x 11inch paper, folded up, nice and neat. She also tends to clip recipes from magazines and puts a star by her favorites. These recipes are organized by most often used and are usually paper clipped, then placed in a recycled storage bag (that’s another story for another day.) All of these lovely and quite ancient recipes are then stored in a fashionable vinyl green zippered portfolio that she once used for banking papers and such—twenty-five years ago. (Again, the recycle idea.) Imagine how long it takes to locate a banana bread recipe that’s tucked in with twenty or thirty others? Yeah, don’t imagine that.

Several years ago, I convinced Mom to let me type her best and most often used recipes on the computer. (Okay, I didn’t actually do it myself; my 2nd daughter did.) I explained to Mom that I would have easy access to the files and all she had to do was call, no matter where she was, and I could either send the file on the computer, print and mail it, or read it to her. (I also made the unfortunate mistake of explaining what “scanning” meant.) Who knew she’d ask me to send my brothers and sister “interesting” articles from the local newspaper?

Most of Mom’s recipes are now on the computer, and when she calls about a chocolate chip recipe, I know to ask if she means the “extraordinary chocolate chip” recipe, not to be confused with the “impossible delicious chocolate chip” recipe, or any of the other variations in Mom’s portfolio. These recipes are very different and you have to know the difference. I happen to be one of the only people, aside from Mom, who knows which are which, and that makes me the “go to” person. Last year was the first time Mom had enough confidence in the computer to leave her lovely green zippered portfolio at home. That was a big win for me, almost as big as talking her into new sneakers.

This system has worked well for several years. However…it has also backfired, on occasion. When Mom is visiting my brothers in California, (she lives in Pennsylvania and I am in Ohio), we have a routine. She’ll tell me ahead of time if she needs a recipe sent to one of my brothers’ computers at work. Depending on where she’s staying, they’ll print the recipe and take it to her.

“Send your brother a message,” she’ll say. “Tell him to make sure he brings the recipe home because I promised his friend I’d make him a zucchini pineapple bread and I don’t know if I have all of the ingredients.”

Well, Mom did have everything she needed for the zucchini pineapple bread, but then she decided to make a banana bread because she had too many ripe bananas. Unfortunately, she’d run out of flour and sour cream…and what do you think she did? She got on the phone, called my oldest brother, who happened to be in a board meeting, and asked him to stop at the grocery store on his way home. He couldn’t wait to call and tell me that one! I can’t forget to mention my sister, who is in Virginia and luckily for her, out of the food loop. She is, however, included in scanned articles of local interest.

We love our mother and she knows we’ll do anything for her. As a matter of fact, I’m mailing her a package tomorrow…some Romano cheese, fresh bread, nut bars, vitamins, and a copy of this post. Rest assured, she’ll have a thing or three to say about it….

Next week, I’ll tell you all about the $125 apple pie my mother baked for my oldest brother. Yes, you read that amount correctly, and of course, there’s a story behind it!

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