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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

A Mad Scientist in the Making! by Raymond Maher

It was long ago and far away. I was in the first year of high school, but still mostly an impressionable kid at heart. Television had come to our home at long last and the power of television commercials could twist me around the advertisers' fingers like thread. I never suspected that they might not deliver what they so gloriously seemed to offer.

As Christmas approached, one of the "must have" things that year was a coveted chemistry set. Every kid that got one would become the mad scientist around their neighborhood. The set promised the potential of conducting the most fascinating experiments ever known to man. The advertisement hinted that any of the ten plus owners had the potential to mix a secret formula as another Einstein. For 1959 it was one of the most expensive gifts for kids that year with a price tag of $40.00. It was way too expensive as gift for me, but my parents knew it was where my heart was set that year.

Isn't it strange how we often yearn for the things we know the least about? My knowledge of chemicals and doing experiments was right around zero. There I was a backward lad growing up on a farm without running water, indoor plumbing or a family car, wanting to be a mad scientist in the making. At that particular time, a stroke had brought my father low. He was a man who could no longer work with his withered arm and twisted hand. He walked with a cane with one leg stiff and awkward. Needless to say, lack of money was a real focus of our lives.

That year, my father had received an inheritance of a few hundred dollars. Of course we had wanted him to spend it in various ways. Yet, he made it clear that he would spend his money as he saw fit. In hindsight, I was a bonehead towards my dad. His disabilities frequently embarrassed me. I did not honor and respect him nearly as much as I should have. I think he was better acting towards me than I was towards him.

When Christmas rolled around, I received a chemistry set that put me into utter shock and disbelief. My dad had bought it for me out of his inheritance money. I used it about four times and it seemed to be a foretaste of my passionate dislike of chemistry in high school. Although I didn't use the chemistry set much, I treasured it for years. It was an undeserved gift from my Dad at a time when my behavior was limp. twisted, stiff and awkward in respect towards him. Thanks Dad!

Raymond Maher lives in Melville, SK.

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