I was recently in conversation with a few friends when one expressed her concern that without a male figure in her son’s life, he’d not only be robbed of the lessons that only a man could teach but also things like sports and comic books. Nonchalantly I said that it was my mom that taught me the basics of football, bought my first baseball bat and glove, and practiced with me and would race me up the stairs. Every sport or team I had ever been on was attributed to my mother in some way. So it didn’t surprise me that some of the other men in our conversation echoed similar stories. Maybe not as all-encompassing but their mothers had played catch with them, or had somehow played a role in their sports development. But when it came to their random fandoms, both women and men, their mothers played a huge role in them getting into it. Stories told through smiles and sniffles of hours spent with mothers, grandmothers, aunties, big sisters watching weird shows or movies, and then somehow become part of your DNA. So in a time when women, especially women of color, are facing colorism and gatekeeping in the geek community, it’s only right for Mother’s Day we celebrate the mothers that made us all geeks.
Around this time of year, it’s always hard for me because it’s around my sister’s birthday and Mother’s Day, where we lost my Nana. I spent the majority of my young life raised by her and my papa. So there is a lot of them in me. But I will avoid getting into all of that because my eyes are stinging, and the words are getting blurry. What I will say is that my penchant for Sci-Fi is from my nana. While she did all the cooking and making sure I went to church, it was Saturday afternoons where she was prepping for Sunday Dinner that we would watch Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers. They came on back to back right after the A-Team, and Knight Rider, which was cool, but the first two were probably why I was so interested in outer space at such a young age. I was fascinated with space and stars, and in Battlestar Galactica, there were these fantastic pilots, but unlike other space shows, there was Lt. Boomer and Colonel Tigh– two Black men in space with high ranks that were fighting and barking orders. I wanted to go into space one day because I saw them, and that made me want to ingest anything space-related I could. I still remember her voice calling to me when she had to walk out of the room to check on a pot to tell her when the show was coming back on so we wouldn’t miss a second of it together. As I got older and started to help more in the kitchen, we convinced my papa to get a TV in the kitchen for us, and we would watch Star Trek: The Next Generation together.
Maybe that love of Sci-fi and fantasy passed on to my mother as well because if my grandmother was the spark, my mother fanned the flame to my geekdom. My mother is a geek. A geek before geek was a thing. Like it’s amazing how geeky she is. Everything I am into can be traced to her like a geek ancestry. Nana introduced me to Sci-fi, but it was when I was with my mom that I was introduced to the original Star Trek and the Star Trek movies. I can remember being a little kid with the chickenpox, watching The Search for Spock. All the times huddled in her bed, enjoying popcorn watching the Star Wars saga. Or having to cover my eyes to watch Alien then feeling brave because I watched Aliens not having to leave the room. But it wasn’t just Sci-fi but games as well
My mother was the first person to introduce me to a computer. A Commodore 128 was state of the art back then. And while it helped me learn and was to give me a leg up in school, it was where I played my first video game. She bought Aliens, and I played that game for hours trying to get past the first two boards. But it stoked my love of video games. I still remember the first time I got past the initial board that had you piloting a drop-ship through a tube to reach the planet below. I ran to my mother, yelling and she laughed and ran to see. It took me another 5 tries to recreate the feat, but she waited and watched patiently. When my dad bought my first Atari, it was my mother who taught me Asteroids, Centipede, Pac-Man, and Pitfall. When my dad bought me a Nintendo, it was my mother who tried to figure out with me where to play the flute in Zelda or laughed at Mario kicking turtle-shells into walking mushrooms.
It goes as far as even horror and fantasy. It was my mother that introduced me to movies like Excalibur and Labyrinth. But also Dracula and Night of the Living Dead. Despite being only to finally fully watch them when I was an adult, she definitely sparked my interest in horror and things that went bump in the night. My fascination with vampires stems entirely from her. We watched Interview with the Vampire when it first came out and tore through the imagery like explorers that had found gold. We laughed at the Twilight Saga and the shimmery vampires and laughed at Eddie Murphy’s Vampires in Brooklyn.
And as I look back at my childhood and my friends. There weren’t a lot of dads and brothers that were waving the geek flags. This is not to say there weren’t any. There were plenty of guys playing sports, teaching the way to throw a punch, tips on how to woo the fairer sex, and yes, there were some around that would play games with us and buy cartridges or comic books. But my first box of comics was from a friend of my mother. A treasure trove of comics that stoked my imagination. I spent many a day immersed in Strike Force Morituri, X- Men, Legion of Super-Heroes, and many others whose titles fail me now. But more often than not, it was the women in our lives that fed fuel to our imaginations and creativity. Mothers who shared their love of sci-fi with us. Sisters who drew our favorite characters on our notebooks so we could show off in class. Grandmothers that would call us every name but our own but somehow remembered the difference between the regular Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Knight, the Bespin fatigues, the X-wing fighter pilot, and the Hoth Battle Gear when it came Christmas time.
So now, as I am enjoying another decade of geekdom and my son is finally old enough that we can play the R-rated video games online together with my friends and him not be shocked by the words flying around. Or at least his mother won’t yell at me for him hearing them. I enjoy these bonding moments. And while I impart my knowledge of geekdom on him, his mother is there. He’s not a fan of writing, so she searched until she found a writing class that used Marvel as the basis to stimulate ideas. But I also equally enjoy the moments my daughter, my eldest and adult herself, brings up an anime she watched or a random comment about a manga she picked up. She’s a geek through and through. And while I would love to say I influenced it, it was something she gravitated to on her own. Something her mother could have shunned, but she encouraged it. Buying her Manga and things she knew nothing about. And now she has started with my grandson whom she is already dressing in superhero onesies and sitting to watch anime with her ensuring he will be the next generation of geeks in my family. Another branch in the tree started and nurtured by a woman.
When they announced the new Star Trek Discovery series and Picard, my first text was to my mom. When they announced Prometheus the Alien prequel, it wasn’t my boys I thought to speak to; first, it was my mom. Because for as long as I can remember when others laughed at my excessive knowledge of superheroes, it was my mom who listened. When I wanted to go outside to see the stars late at night, it was my mom who let me layout on the fire escape and let my mind wander. When I came home from being teased, or cursed whoever made me smart because I had no friends. It was my mom who was my friend. It was her who taught me to throw a spiral and join the football games. It was her who first took Steve Urkel and made him, well not Stefan, but a little cooler and taught him that being a geek was fine and fun.
But now, I have a date with the third season of Game of Thrones with my mom and sisters. Peace.