I suppose it’s possible that Pekka was trying to get me off my game with his question, although I doubt it. I think it was just something that occurred to him in the heat of the moment. He was never one to focus on football all that much.
Anyway, we were on our home field, on the small lot of grass between Pekka’s house and mine, and it was my turn to be the goalie. I had made a couple of saves and kicked the ball back to Pekka. He stopped it, put his foot on the ball, his hands on his hips, and asked me: “Hey, how old are your parents?
I didn’t say anything.
Pekka asked me again.
I said nothing. Pekka looked at me, and then – to be helpful, I guess – he said, “Mine are 35. Or, Mom’s 35, Dad’s a little older.”
I still didn’t say anything because I was trying to think of an answer. In hindsight, I think I should’ve just told him the truth, but instead, I just said, “mine, too” and urged him to kick the ball again.
The truth was that I didn’t know how old my mother was. What did I care? She was my Mom, she was the best.
She was also just 28.
Whenever I tell the story of my applying to the business school, I always say that I did it because I wanted to come out of it as a hockey agent, but that’s only half the story. That’s what I decided after I had got accepted into the school, and during my first year.
The reason I chose to apply to business school in the first place was that Mom had also gone to the same school and I had seen her take care of business – pun intended – like nobody’s, um, business (of course).
When Dad’s buddy wanted to register a new hockey club, Mom did the paperwork. When somebody needed help with their tax returns, they called Mom. She was game official in my hockey games, and when the coach (Dad) wanted to show the team NHL games, it was Mom who found the contact at the Canadian Embassy, and their film service.
Even in our family, she was the one who knew how to fix things, both figuratively and literally. (Dad’s more of a mechanic, for sure, but give Mom a piece of wood, some string and tape, and she’ll give you back a bookshelf, or a ladder, or a fishing rod. Something.)
Whatever my problem or worry, Mom had the answer. No money and I really, really, really wanted Europe’s “Final Countdown”? Charge it on Mom’s credit card. Need help with English/Swedish/German? Go see Mom. No outfit for the school carnival the next day? Why not go as a clown, surely Mom can take down our orange curtains and make me a pair of clown pant, and surely she can do a good clown makeup? Yes, she could, and yes, she did.
Failing the first math exam at business school? Who are ya gonna call?
Not the Ghostbusters.
After I had taken the business school admission test, I left for Harbor Beach, Michigan for the summer. It wasn’t really the America I had seen in the movies, being that the population of HB was about 500 and that my host family hadn’t really been expecting a high school graduate from Finland.
One day, Mom called me, and grabbed the phone from the kitchen and stretched its extralong cord all the way to the living room where nobody could hear me, and told Mom how miserable I was. She listened to me, and tried to cheer me up, and then said: ““well, it’s not all bad, you got a letter from the business school today and I opened it.”
“You got in, congrats.” she said. “Although, I wouldn’t have minded to have you at home a little longer.”
I got back home from Michigan, and a month later, I moved back to Helsinki and began my studies at the business school.
Our first exam was in mathematical economics and I was pretty confident going in, because just a few months earlier, I had written a piece of code with my Spectrum, that calculated the equilibrium points when I punched in the variables.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have my Spectrum with me, and all the BASIC code in the world couldn’t have helped me. I ran up the stairs to see the exams results on the wall, and the optimist in me started to scan the list of names from the top, working my way down, and then further down, and then some more – until the end.
My name wasn’t on the list.
I ran down the stairs as fast as I had done on my way up and ran out and all the way to the nearest phone booth with tears in my eyes. (I’m an only child, so I’ve been the favorite son all my life which had possibly not prepared me for life’s setbacks).
And I called Mom.
“I… I…I just saw … sa-saw the scores, the math scores … and … and I failed,” I told her.
“Hey, it’s OK,” she said.
That would have been enough because if Mom says things are OK, or will be – they are, or will be. But she wasn’t finished.
“Listen, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just your first exam, and you can take it again, right?”
“Y-yes. I guess.”
Never in my life had I taken a test again.
“And you know what?” Mom said then. “You know, I flunked my first test, too. You just move on, and study a little harder the next time.”
We spoke a little more and then hung up. I got out of the phone booth feeling a lot better. If Mom, the smartest person I knew had flunked an exam, then it wasn’t that strange that it’d happen to me, too. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Mom was even smarter than I had imagined. I’m positive she had never flunked an exam.
She just fixed things.
These days, I’m a little smarter, too. I know, for example, how old my Mom is. And that she’s the best.