I have a secret crush on Einstein
I have a secret crush on Einstein. When I look at his picture, see his smile and his sparkling eyes, I smile. And that hair! How can you not love that hair? How I wish I could’ve known him; been his lab assistant, his confidant. I would’ve brought his tea while he spent hours lost in his thought experiments. Our lives overlapped by a mere four years and yet for me he still lives.
I have to admit, Nikola Tesla has recently caught my eye. Not only was he dashingly handsome, but what a mind. I am awe struck by his thinking. The conveniences we have and take for granted are in a large part due to this man. We owe him much. Without him, we couldn’t plug in our toaster in the morning, and his experiments with wireless energy laid the groundwork for cell towers and WiFi. His imagination went beyond the conventional to places I find intriguing.
I can’t go back in time – not yet anyway – to meet Einstein and Tesla. They have moved on to a different plane of existence. But I would be happy to spend an afternoon hanging out with astrophysicist Neil deGgrasse Tyson. Can you imagine? It would be amazing.
As a child, I was one of the lucky ones. It wasn’t just okay to ask questions in our house, it was encouraged. My mom and dad purchased a full set of Collier’s encyclopedia along with the Junior Classics, from a door-to-door salesman. We didn’t have the money to spare, but my parents knew that knowledge was more important than new shoes.
I’d ask questions like, “Why is the sunset so full of color?” and “Why can’t I fly?” My dad either knew the answer and would tell me in a way my child’s mind could understand or if he didn’t know, we would find the answer together. As I look back, I can see our house was a place for discovery, experimenting and going wherever our curiosity took us.
I remember, one Christmas, my older brother found a new wrist watch waiting for him under the tree. That afternoon he took it apart to see how it worked. I think mom and dad were irritated, especially when he had trouble putting it back together. But he became an engineer with a master’s degree, in large part due to the fact they didn’t strangle him that day.
My dad, the mailman, was brilliant. As a child, I took his intelligent, always curious mind, for granted. It was as an adult that I realized how amazing he was. One of Dad’s hobbies was horticulture and in the early spring, the greenhouse benches were lined with flat after flat of sprouting vegetables and flowers, often unusual varieties that he’d ordered in the winter from the Burpee Seed Company. He experimented with selective pollination to produce different colored blooms and leaf patterns on the plants. Sometimes he was successful and sometimes he wasn’t. But he never stopped investigating the possibilities.
Dad also built a computer from a mail-order kit when personal computers were unheard of. He taught himself to code and wrote his own programs. The Back Room was his place, filled with amateur radio equipment, model airplanes, seed catalogues and an oscilloscope with its green curving line moving across the screen. I would pull up a stool, sit beside him and try to absorb every word he said. His left brain thinking gave balance to my flitting abstract artist’s approach to life. He gave me a tether to the world, but let my imagination fly.