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The mother of invention

May 5th, 2010

Published in Today’s Local News on Mother’s Day, 2007, this column was a tribute to my mom. 

My mother passed away in 1980. I think she would have loved some of the products invented since then, and not only the high-tech devices. I’m talking about everyday items, such as Zip-lock bags, that would have thrilled her to no end. 

Mom came from the old school of plastic bag savers; she washed them out and hung them over the prongs in the dish drainer to dry. She could have had fun with Zip-locs. They could stand up by themselves, maybe even march in rows across the counter. 

Like an Inspector Gadget of the kitchen, my mom was an efficiency expert, the queen of labor-saving devices. I grew up thinking that every household was equipped with tomato knives and mushroom brushes, salad spinners and corn-on-the-cob buttering doodads. 

She always appreciated innovation. 

When Velcro came out in the ’60s, she was the first one on the block to use it for sewing clothes. 

Once she made me a school dress that featured a foot-long strip of Velcro down the front. The bosom stuck out stiffly at an angle when I sat down, so I was forever pushing it back in. 

“Aw Mom,” I complained. “Do I really have to wear this?”

 While other sixth-grade girls were stuffing socks in their bras, I was pounding at my chest to keep it flat. 

Stain Stick would have rocked my mother’s world. She used a scrub brush with gritty, gray Lava Soap for stains. Imagine if she could have rubbed some goo on a spot and let it disappear in the washing machine. 

I can only guess how she would react at the sight of me pulling a tube of Tide to Go out of my purse and erasing the smear from a strawberry I just dropped on my white shirt. 

Post-it notes? I’m not sure exactly when they came along, but I know she’d adore them. 

The original concept came out in the form of large, adhesive sheets you could tack up on the wall like a bulletin board. I used to throw things against mine at the office to see what would stick, sort of like flinging cooked spaghetti noodles at the refrigerator door. 

From there it was just a short, inspired leap to the colorful sticky notes we use today. And did you realize they were an accident? Some sort of failure by the glue inventors. You know heads had to roll on that one. 

Speaking of adhesives, let’s not overlook the clear, snot-like material often found on junk mail. It’s that line of stretchy glue that comes on slick-paper mailings. Hard to believe somebody’s making a killing from inventing rubber boogers, but it’s true. 

They’re loads of fun to peel up and roll between your fingers. I personally enjoy hanging them from my nose—but not in public. 

Which reminds me: when I was a kid, we would suck on a piece of Scotch tape until the glue separated from the cellophane. I’m probably not the only one who did this, or who spread Elmer’s glue on my palms just so I could peel it off when it dried. And for the record, I wasn’t a paste eater. 

If my mom were around today, I bet she’d be one of those cool grannies who carries an iPod and Facebooks her grandkids.

She’d definitely have a cell phone, and if I called to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, chances are I’d end up on call waiting. I’d sure love the chance to find out.


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