Jan 14 2009


My mother could never remember which toothpaste to buy.

She was not a stupid woman. She was extremely bright and capable. She enjoyed the professional respect of her colleagues, she was a working mother who could edit an entire magazine, direct a staff of a dozen people, meet deadlines, develop public relations strategies, fight off the politics of a male-dominated world, volunteer her service to several community organizations at once and still somehow manage to pick me up after school, drive me to piano lessons and float meetings, attending to all the administration of our household and get dinner on the table before my father came home from work.

But she couldn’t come home from the grocery store with the right toothpaste. She’d return with Gleem or Colgate, or Close-Up, anything but what I wanted. And I would admonish her as only a rotten teenager can.


It was beyond me how a woman so smart and accomplished could be so absent minded about such a simple thing as the brand of toothpaste that was clearly (at least to me) our family’s preference.

It wasn’t just the toothpaste. She’d confuse my friends’ names. She’d even confuse my name, sometimes calling me by my sister’s or brother’s names. She’d holler up the stairs, cycling through each one of our names until she got it right. My mom was one big eye-roll after another.

Not just my mom. My friends agreed, all moms were dull-witted. Maybe they were smart at their jobs, or smart when they read the newspaper or helped with a homework assignment. But otherwise, they couldn’t remember anything important. Moms were a joke. We loved them, but they were feeble-minded.

And now I’m one of them. I’m astounded at what my mind cannot hold. And I respect my mother more than ever before. Will I have to wait as many years for my daughters to have the same epiphany?