GeekMom Secret Origins: Our Weather Wizard, Patricia Vollmer

Family GeekMom

Boy, this post was a long time coming. I’ve been with GeekMom for 4 1/2 years and I’ve yet to summarize my geeky origin story for you…let’s remedy that, shall we?

I can think of numerous memories in my youth that I think contributed to my geekiness. Among my first memories is getting to see Star Wars in the theater with my parents in the late 1970s. I was a preschooler at the time, but remember, those were the days before the PG-13 rating, and there was a WIDE spectrum of what was appropriate for a PG movie back then. As a matter of fact, I went with my father to see all of the Star Wars original trilogy films in the theater.

My affinity for science fiction definitely came from my father. Our house had bookcases that included classic Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. novels. My parents are both avid readers and I found my way through many of the books in their bookcases over the years…oftentimes before I was probably old enough to fully understand them. I remember devouring the Ender’s Game series just as I was finishing college…so even on my own I was gravitating towards sci-fi storytelling.

My parents also introduced me to some fun foreign geekdoms as well. When our local PBS station would show reruns of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I was sitting on the living room floor in front of the TV laughing along with my parents (although, perhaps I shouldn’t have…see the link to Laura’s essay above). I have memories of my parents watching reruns of classics such as Upstairs, Downstairs and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries on Sunday nights; the same PBS Mystery program through which we Americans now watch Sherlock.

Another aspect of my geekiness is embracing a love of learning. I remember my parents always telling me to “look it up yourself” as the answer to my numerous questions, and I was probably quite resentful of what I considered at the time as laziness. We had an (ancient) Grolier encyclopedia set, and a perfectly good Webster’s dictionary readily available.

Remember, this was before the internet and “googling.” Looking things up on one’s own meant actually walking over to books and cracking them open.

Today, I thank my parents for instilling that self-sufficient behavior, and I now make conscious efforts to teach those same behaviors to my 10- and 13-year-old sons. It isn’t always easy—how many times have you just done something yourself because it would be faster or easier?—but as the proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

My parents also never told me I “couldn’t” do anything. If I had a wild idea, they would help me assess pros and cons, and unless it compromised my safety (“Mom, can I try skydiving? I know I’m only 6 years old…”), they would leave the ultimate decisions up to me. In many cases, they would do their best to set me up for success in my decision-making by helping to gather pertinent information to make my decisions.

They also let me fail. Or at least head in a failure direction before attempting a possible redirect—again, usually letting me handle the final decisions. This happened when I attempted to pile the high school swim team, Girl Scouts, and orchestra on top of keeping up my school grades during my Junior year of high school. I ended up not having time to eat or sleep, and fainting spells ensued. They never told me I couldn’t do it, but guided me to look at what my ultimate goals might have been in trying to do too much at once. I didn’t last long on my high school swim team.

I admit it…I wasn’t flaunting my geekiness one bit while I was a teenager. In my community, getting good grades in school opened you up to plenty of ostracizing and bullying. I was your classic nerd girl trying to carve a niche with the “popular crowd” and often I let that get the better of me. My love for Asimov and Star Wars remained under the radar for years.

Being able to join the GeekMom family transformed me. By the time I was accepted as a writer, I was embracing my inner Star Wars geekery again with my sons as Episodes 1, 2, and 3 hit the theaters, as well as with The Clone Wars and Lego Star Wars video games. My two sons resuscitated my love for Star Wars, and they also helped our family develop a love for Pixar, thanks to their obsessions with movies such as Finding Nemo, Cars, and The Incredibles while they were younger.

Today, I’m proud of who I am, and don’t care nearly as much about what people think. Hopefully you’re inspired to embrace your geekiness too!

Top Image: This sums up my two favorite geekdoms right now. Thank my Dad for Star Wars, thank my Mom for Disney. Photo credit: Dave Vollmer

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