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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Track 16: Brokedown Palace

Brokedown Palace

Katie Sullivan

 

For the past two months, when my thumb tapped its way to a digital copy of American Beauty, it wavered, and then wandered away. I feared it. I feared the warm, twangy intro of “Box of Rain,” the memory of my father singing it guilelessly out of tune, of realizing it is Father’s Day today and how I don’t want to call him but reluctantly will, of knowing that this album is going to hurt. It hurts before I even start listening.   

But let’s move back. It is 2003. My father and I are driving over 2000 miles from our Illinois suburb to San Diego. I have been accepted to a private liberal arts university that served Orange County’s academically undistinguished nouveau riche. In our cramped Honda Civic, my father has brought along  about 100 painstakingly “burned” CDs in individual jewel cases, each with an ink jet printed label in the same nondescript Times New Roman font. There was Joni Mitchell’s Blue in there, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. But the one we listened to nonstop, through the blank spaces of the I-80 corridor, was American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. (more…)

Track 6: Perfect Day

Perfect Day

Matthew Cheney

 

That moment: album — book — car ride.

How long ago now? Twenty-five years? Something like that.

It was (roughly) sometime between 1988 and 1991, which means sometime between when I was (roughly) 12 years old and 16 years old. Most likely 1989 or 1990. Most likely 14 or 15 years old.

Interstate 93 North between Boston, Massachusetts and Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Blue Toyota Tercel wagon, my mother driving.

Mass market paperback of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner tie-in edition).

Black Sony Walkman cassette player.

Soul Mining by The The. (more…)

Long Day: An Introduction to Albums

Long Day

Kelly J. Baker

 

It was a Saturday in mid-April. The kids were off to Grandma’s house. Chris was working in his office upstairs, listening to music with his headphones on. The rhythmic thump of his foot on the floor above me suggested that he was probably listening to Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves, the current favorite artists of all four Bakers. And I was waiting on him to finish work, so the two of us could spend the day together.

I picked up a broom to sweep and kill time.

My half-hearted attempt at cleaning required a soundtrack, so I pulled up the Amazon Music app on our television and scrolled through the library of music we’ve accumulated in fourteen years of marriage. I passed by Jimmy Eat World, P!nk, the Pitch Perfect 1 and 2 soundtracks, Musgraves, Miranda, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Maroon 5, Kansas, Rachel Platten, Reba, Fall Out Boy, and Journey. None of these artists or albums interested me. I didn’t want to listen to any of them. I searched on. (more…)

Sharpening

Every Friday, I stuff folders in my daughter’s first grade classroom. I did not volunteer for this task. No other parents volunteered. The teacher needed someone to do it, so now I do. Part of the reason I agreed is because I was curious about what happens in first grade. While I sort assignments, crafts, and tests into piles for each student, I peer into the classroom to see what’s going on. I sit in the shared office for four teachers and watch the students through an open door. Four or five children sit at each round table. They complete their work at different times. They talk to one another. They watch and listen to the teacher as she calls out each word of the spelling test. A few kids are dreamy like my daughter. Some fidget and tap. Others have energy that cannot be contained by a blue plastic chair and a round table. They stand up and down looking for any excuse to move. More than a few sit perfectly still, waiting to find out what assignment they need to complete next. I fidget more as I watch the stillness. I move when they can’t seem to.

At first, stuffing folders was a chore that I never looked forward to. Friday morning would arrive, and I would wake up and sigh dramatically. Two hours of my morning offered up freely. Two hours that I didn’t get to write, research, or read. Two hours sacrificed on the altar of being a good and engaged mother. Two hours I would never get back. Two hours lost to me each week. Why, I wondered yet again, did I ever agree to this? I choked back irritation and filled the folders anyway. On more than one Friday, I considered backing out, but I managed to convince myself not to.

One Friday in November, or maybe December, my perspective shifted. All the folders were finished. I gulped coffee from my “World’s Okayest Mom” mug and then asked the teacher if there was anything else I could do to help. I asked before I realized what I was asking. “Pencils,” she said firmly, “We need pencils sharpened.”

So, I collected pencils, No. 2 and colored, from each table to sharpen one by one. There’s an electric sharpener in the teachers’ shared office. It sounds like each pencil it sharpens brings it inevitably closer to death. It doesn’t grind as much as gasp. I started to sharpen pencils, and it occurred me that I haven’t really sharpened a pencil since I was in high school. Would I remember how? My high school’s sharpeners were mechanical with a handle that you cranked. I loved that my hands provided the energy for the blades to make my pencils sharp and usable again. I loved the softer sound of grinding. I enjoyed the teacher’s sigh of frustration when I wanted my pencil the sharpest it could be.

I eyed the dying electric sharpener; I don’t trust it. I don’t even like the look of it. I inserted one pencil, then two, and three. Unsurprisingly, it gave up one last gasp. I overheated it. This wouldn’t happen with a mechanical sharpener, I thought as I gave it one last evil glance. (more…)

Exits and entrances

Dearest Liana,

Structure? Yes, I also need structure. Like you, I find myself craving the structure of a classroom. I want someone else to ride herd on my writing process. I want a group of people to read and comment on what I write. I’ll admit that I envy your class on personal essays. I want to take a class. I want to take classes, which is why I applied for an MFA program in December.

I want structure, but I need it too. Currently, my life lacks the firm structure that will keep me on the task of writing. Structureless structure abounds, and I still haven’t got a handle on it yet.

My days have a familiar rhythm that start with getting children ready for school and preschool and wind down when I pick both of them up from the after school program. I’ve tried to map my days to create my own schedule. Kids out, writing starts. Kids in, writing over. I imagined that I would stay at my desk for hours working on assignments, essays, or blog posts. I would leave my desk only for short breaks and refills of coffee. I would write all of the words. All of them. In my imagination, there’s a writer who always writes if not at her trusty laptop, then in her beloved journal or any scrap of paper she could find. She would write and write and write and publish and publish and publish. Always writing and always publishing. The schedule of her own design would allow for only productivity and not much else. There would be no sick days, interruptions, or distractions. She would be a writing machine, and others would likely die of envy from her commitment to her craft. She would be a serious writer. Serious writing would be what she does. (more…)