Monday, October 13, 2008

Parapagua, January 1973

My mom, Denise Elston Costich, was born on October 13th. She grew up on Long Island, where my grandparents owned a horticulture consulting firm and had two siblings, Merilee and Mark. The first thing she purchased with her allowance was a rock pick, which she still has (it's in the lab desk in our basement). My uncle once shot her in the butt with a bb-gun, maybe by accident. She was really good at Latin and wanted to be an archaeologist when she was in grade school. She and her best friend Jane Donahue once heisted a rowboat to smoke cigarettes secretly. After high school she went to Brazil for awhile with a Quaker exchange program (where this picture is taken), and then Cornell, where she enrolled in the ag school. She saw Joni Mitchell sing once, and lived with a boyfriend during her sophomore year in Varna and didn't tell my grandparents. After two years she took leave from college and went to Kenya to do an ecological study of the baboons living in the Masaii Mara, a place she stayed for 5 years. Upon return to the states she finished up and received her B.S. and applied to grad school at the University of Iowa. She met my father, who helped fix her bicycle and they moved in together. They got married and then had me a year later. She received a Fullbright to do research in Spain and my parents decided to move to New Jersey where my father and I would live while she was abroad. Her first plant she studied was Silene Ecbalium and the second was a squirting cucumber. When she came back to the New Jersey for good she got a job at Rutgers, where they had small frogs and banana trees in the greenhouse. Once she cut her hair so short that I couldn't recognize her. When I was 5 she had my brother Will, and then when I was 10, Dennis. She started studying Wisconsin Fast Plants and used to come to my school and plant them with my class. When I was in middle school I found a sketchbook of hers and brought it to school to brag to all my friends about what a good artist she was (actually, first I told them that I had done the drawings, but they didn't believe me). She started teaching at Trenton State College. When I was sick or had a day off from school I always chose to go to work with my mom over my dad's office. We moved to Ithaca New York, where she started working at Cornell, and then doing research at Boyce Thompson Institute. My mom made my breakfast (toast!) every morning and picked me up from practice everyday. My brother and I used to fight over who was a faster runner in the car and she once pulled over and made us race up the hill. We had a hard time getting along when I was in highschool. I went to college and then Portland and then Vermont and now San Francisco and she has always remembered to call. She's the first person I came out to.
Many things in this story are probably wrong, and if I wrote it yesterday or tomorrow it would be a little different, I'm sure. My mom has always been the one in our family most committed to cataloguing and holding on to things that will help us remember how it used to be some day, because a lot has changed for us. My mom gave me this picture of her which she found at my grandmothers house this last summer, and I like it because it's taken before I was born, but I feel like I was there and knew her then. She'll probably be embarrassed about this posting. She also thinks you should vote for Obama, and today is her birthday.

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