Archive for the ‘memoir’ Category

Momma Said

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Have you ever wondered what your children would write if they wrote a book about you?  Would it be Dreams from My Father, or more like Mommie, Dearest?  I think my children would make a picture book and call it Momma Said.  I have recently discovered a few of the things that I inadvertently taught my mommy 1children.  For instance, I taught my oldest child that if you are going to lie it has to be believable.  She had drawn all over a wall in our house and tried to blame it on her 2-year-old sister.  I told her that if she wanted to blame someone else for something she had done, she should not sign her name next time.

momma 2I also taught them to keep secrets.  I would sometimes spend more that I had intended on a shopping trip and then (jokingly, I thought) say to my children, “Shh! Don’t tell Daddy.”  My daughter remembers hearing this on many occasions.  What she apparently didn’t know was that I always went home and told Daddy.  He paid most of the bills, anyway.  How was I going to hide anything?  Of course, when I really meant “Don’t tell Daddy,” because it was a gift for him, one of the kids always blurted it out as soon as they saw him.

I taught my children how to project their voices.  Children instinctively know how to yell, but with indoor voices you need amomma 3 different technique. (mom, mom, Mom, MOM, MOM!)  This has come in handy in their chosen pursuits:  one is active in theater; one is a teacher; and the third plays an ogre or a dwarf in live action role playing.

I also taught them, with varying levels of success, how to read, count and be good neighbors.  OK, I actually turned on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood so I could pick up the house and cook dinner.  I needed that hour and a half and those shows were the perfect combination. momma6Sesame Street got them excited and singing and dancing with short segments and commercials from the letters and numbers, the Mr. Rogers came in and put on his sweater and sneakers and calmed them down with his gentle words.  My second child actually did teach herself to read from watching Sesame Street.  She asked when she would be able to read and I said, you already can.  She knew her letter sounds, so I gave her a few simple books and showed her how to sound out a word or two.  She took it from there.  Sometimes I got one right.

If you are worried that you are teaching your children similar lessons, I want to assure you that my now grown children are wonderful people.  If you are still worried, ACPL has plenty of books on parenting.

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The field of dreams

The Tincaps season came to a shattering end Monday night when their arch-rivals, the Silver Hawks of South Bend, spoiled their bid for a return trip to the Midwest League Championship series. Even if losing to the dreaded dirty birds was particularly hard to stomach, there is no crying in baseball, as any fan knows. And there is certainly no shame in having made it to the second round of the play-offs. So we’ll get ’em next year, Tincaps! Or something like that.

Baseball has always been my game for myriad reasons. For one, it was one the few sports I was relatively good at. And it has always appealed to my sensibility as both something of an archivist and historian by nature, dating back to the mid 19th Century in an organized, recorded form, and earlier, less formally. I like the statistics and arcane trivia that goes along with all that. And it has always seemed to me, too, that baseball players were the “working men” of sports, playing nearly every day, whereas the other major sports are played merely three times or even just once a week. Baseball has long been the soundtrack to my springs and summers.
When the Tincaps moved downtown five seasons ago, I was slow in getting started. I was among the fools who argued that the Wizards were perfectly fine where they were, and I crudely confess that I snubbed the Tincaps in their new stadium for a while. I went to a handful of games the first couple seasons. And then, three seasons ago, I began to understand why the community has embraced the Tincaps of Parkview Field more than it ever did Wizards at Memorial Stadium. There is a sparkle to the field, a glimmer to the lights and an ineffable magic in the air at Parkview that wasn’t as perceptible at Memorial Stadium — at least, not by me.

Two seasons ago, I went to about 15 games. Last season, I went to 25, erasing all doubt that I had arrived at fan status. And this season, I made 39, including 24 wins, 15 losses, a double-header, two baseballs retrieved (one foul, and one thrown into the stands by a player), and lots of fun.

Undoubtedly, my highlight of the season came on the first of September, my birthday. I was part of a small group of library employees set up on the concourse to do some PR work — sign people up for cards, and distribute pencils and goodwill to the fine people of the community. Our director was slated to throw out the first pitch, but when we found out that he wasn’t able to make it, it was decided I would make a relief appearance.
A pretty young woman who I had seen making announcements on the scoreboard screen many times brought me down to the field, and I waited for several minutes, amped up and a little nervous. When, at length, they called my name, I stepped on the field of dreams, and took it all in. I walked quickly, tingling and alive with every step, and took the ball from a gent who I have seen making announcements and conducting interviews (and dancing, as the lead Bad Apple Dancer) many times. I looked at the catcher and the crowd, caressed the baseball and wished I could freeze the moment, if just for a little while. I heard a couple people shouting my name. Then, my focus shifted, and that all became like radio static — the faces, the voices. All I wanted to do was throw a strike, or, at least throw it over the plate without bouncing it short, or throwing it over the catcher’s head. I wound up, released the ball and watched it sail into the catcher’s mitt. Then, suddenly, as quickly as I had thrown it, I was marching off the field.
I got to keep the ball, and I got to meet Brian Adams, an outfielder, over in foul ground. I returned to my colleagues with my adrenaline in high gear, and one of my colleagues remarked later that I remained keyed up until the 9th inning.
Nearly a week later, with the season winding down at last Saturday’s game, I took a lap around the concourse and reflected that it may be the last time I was doing so in the 2013 season. And it was. But there is no crying in baseball. If you ask me, though, a few misty eyes are OK, as long as you cover up by saying you were fielding pop-ups in the sun.

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388164-netflix-original-orange-is-the-new-blackSo, as you may have noticed, a made-for-Netflix series called Orange is the new Black has begun taking our current pop culture by storm.  Based on the successful 2010 memoir of the same title by Piper Kerman, the series follows Piper after she surrenders herself for a crime that happened 10 years prior, and the resulting 15 months that she served in a minimum security women’s prison.  As Kerman pointed out during her most recent interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, the Netflix series is an adaptation of the reality she experienced, sometimes taking significant creative liberties as it goes along, although still generally outlining her experience.

Going into my first viewings of it, I feared that it would go the way of Oz, showcasing a predominantly sad and ultra-violent kind of desperation.  Thankfully, this series primarily focuses on discussing official and unofficial rules, exploring the characters that occupy the prison and what landed them there as it progresses.  The topics of race, class, sexuality, and gender are all touched upon through a diverse cast of strong women and the way in which they share the space.

While the show’s prison atmosphere still features abuse, addiction, violence, sex, and everything else we have come to expect from prison depictions, it also features loving friendships and relationships among the women who inhabit it, as well as day-to-day comic relief.  The characters, despite past and current transgressions, are still fully capable of warm, sometimes surprising, moments of goodness and solidarity.  Even if you don’t believe you’ll be interested in the theme of prison life, you may find yourself captivated by the stories behind each character, and the small ways in which these characters make their shared reality feel much less miserable than one might expect.  Generally, the series provides its viewers with a sense of prison reality that portrays its prisoners as people with pasts, presents, and futures, rather than people who can only be seen as prisoners, nothing more.

If this series has made you want to reach out to prisoners or help them to better their lives, I suggest that you look into donating to the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project based out of Bloomington, which sends books to incarcerated individuals all around the United States (providing that those books meet the strict guidelines and codes of the prisons).

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