I have always been fascinated by human nature. An observer of life. What makes people tick? I am truly interested in life! I know everyone has a story. And I like to hear it. As my luck would have it, people tell me stuff, in the grocery line, waiting at the bank, pumping gas. I must exude curiosity. Not sure how I got that way. I think some of our personality is innate. I believe our life experiences shapes the way we use those innate traits. But also, one must consider the additional factor of nurturing. The nurture vs. nature discussion has existed for eons. Is someone the way they are because they were born that way? Or did something in the way they were nurtured play more of a role? How will we ever know?

I know this seems as if it is going in a deep, dark hole. It’s not.

I’m pretty sure my interest in human behavior stems from my childhood. Thinking about my childhood, got me thinking about my mom. Her birthday was this week. If she was alive she would have turned 96. She died 30 years ago. I think about her often and tell stories about her. She was a kick in the pants. She was funny and quick witted, often times playing the straight-man for my father’s humor. Kind of like George and Gracie.

Of course thinking about my mom, reminded me of some memories of her in my early life in San Diego.

One childhood memory that stands out to me is time spent talking with her in the car. Often during the summer, when days were long and the sun didn’t set until past our bedtime, my mom would drive us kids a few blocks to the neighborhood Mayfair Market. She’d drop us off to see if we could find our way home before dark. Okay, I’m kidding about that. But she probably would’ve liked to with five kids at home and long summer days.

She would take us to Mayfair, which was in a little neighborhood plaza, grocery store, donut shop, dry cleaners and other retail businesses. She’d park near the Coronet five and dime store, where she could pull the car in facing the stores. She would send at least one of us kids in to the grocery store to buy fresh fruit. Back in the day Southern California was a mecca for fabulous fruit. Anyway, we’d go in, pick out some peaches, nectarines, plums (my mom’s favorite) whatever looked good to us. We paid for them. Then back to the car with our bounty of fruit. She’d search the inside of her purse and pull out a hankie, wipe the fruit off and we’d sit right there in the car, eating our fruit and people watching.

My mom would point someone out and ask us, “What do you think that man does for a living?” Or she might ask, “If you worked in the grocery store what would you want to be, a cashier, a bag boy or what? And Why? Maybe she’d see a woman all dressed up and ask, “Where do you think she’s going?”

None of it was malicious, it got our creative juices flowing.

In all instances, it sparked conversation between parent and child, in this case, children. And sometimes the opportunity would lend itself to her telling us stories about her young life in Brooklyn. I remember her telling me about when she was young, on more than one occasion, she was guilty of staying on a subway several stops past her’s, because she was engrossed in eavesdropping. When I was older, my mom told me she had always wanted to be a journalist. It made sense now why she enjoyed helping us kids do research for reports. And she did a pretty good job of typing them on an old, heavy Underwood typewriter. I’m sure it was a hand me down from someone.

I think, had she become a journalist, she would have been a crime reporter. I’m telling you, her ability to ask questions and listen would put Perry Mason to shame. She could pump info out of people as if they were getting paid-by-the-word to spill their guts. I’ve had people say to me, over the years, “I told your mother things that I’ve never told my own mother.” In our house she earned the nickname, PI: Private Investigator. She was good.

So, in that whole nurture vs nature thing, I’m going with, the fruit doesn’t fall from the tree.

PS - I miss you, mom.