When people ask me about my childhood, my mind fills with images of pads of construction paper, boxes of Crayola crayons, gold foil stars, white paste in a tub with a stiff yellow spreader, and scissors. When we went to the grocery store, my mother spent my father’s graduate student stipend so carefully on roasts and Spam and Bird’s Eye frozen vegetables – and on a new coloring book, one each for me and for my sister. To Socrates, the unexamined life is not worth living. To my mother, the creative life was the only one to live.
My mother taught us to make Valentines with construction paper by demonstrating how it was done. I remember feeling wonder at the finished beauty, and then such frustration and sorrow. I saw the flat piece of paper, I saw her fold it, I saw her use scissors, I saw her unfold a beautiful and perfect red heart. I knew I could never make one myself. I had missed a part of the process. Where did she cut?
I felt the same desperate grief as we began to undertake learning to make mobile applications. Once the mobile application development tool we’re using was installed on my laptop, I kept clicking and clicking, trying to understand how it worked, where to begin, what to do. I watched the instructional videos, I read the Q & A, I listened studiously to our CTO, Alex, as he explained the tool. I was not getting it. On Sunday, he had a GoToMeeting session with me where he tried one more time to help me. Somehow, somehow, through my questions, he understood what part I was missing. He showed me where to cut.
I felt as if iron-braced timber doors swung inward. Inside, all was light. With stacks of construction paper and boxes of crayons! My mother never made us color in the lines. I cut this and added that, I made this piece and that with my adult version of crayons – my graphic artist would shudder – Paint, and clicked the emulator.
I made an app!
I told my co-founder of She Chooses, Laureen Fleming, that I made an app and she asked with excitement, “What does your app do?”
“Why, it toggles back and forth between ‘yes’ and ‘no’!” I crowed with pride and joy. She laughed. She knows.
Some mothers might say, “Honey, you can do better than that.” The image and text overlap each other in my tabs and it’s definitely no Angry Birds. Some mothers might say, “Honey, what a wonderful app!” But it’s not. It’s got dings in it. My mother wasn’t into judging my creative work, either negatively or positively. We had creativity as a daily meal.
My mother showed me where to cut.
I feel as free and triumphant sharing my first app as I did sharing my first heart with my mother. I made one! I can make another!