The Ardent Anglophile
I know a Good Story / January 27, 2017

I was raised to be an Anglophile.  As a child, my mother spent two memorable years in England, while her father was stationed there, and the experience affected the rest of her life and the education of her daughters.  We were probably the first family in our small Kansas town to make Masterpiece Theatre “must watch” TV.  My sister and I learned the ranks of aristocracy by memorizing the mnemonic “Do Men Ever Visit Boston”(Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Baron) and how to love a good cup of hot tea, even if it was Lipton. Even if she disagreed with some of Parliament’s policies and decisions, England remained Mother’s spiritual “home-away-from-home,” a dampish Shangri-La. That’s why I’m sorry she never found Bill Bryson’s book, Notes from a Small Island; she would have enjoyed it so much.  Like Peter Mayle’s travelogue of the English expatriate living in France, Bryson gives an educated outsider’s view of life in a foreign country. In this case, it’s the perspective of an American living in England. Bryson is one of those impetuous, imaginative Americans grown-ups admire until their children try to follow his example.  He was backpacking around Europe, on a summer break from college, when…

Forever Surrounded by Sisters
I know a Good Story / January 24, 2017

Now, I only have one sibling, but I’ve seen what it’s like to grow up in a gaggle of sisters. Donna, Peggy, Paige, June, and baby Karen Frasier (I changed their names here) lived down the street from us in Garden City, Kansas. Five girls, two parents and a couple of pets in a four bedroom house. I was between Donna and Peggy in school, and I hung out with Paige but what amazed me was how their sister-group worked. When the Frasier girls went out, they moved like a coordinated squadron even (on at least one occasion) dressing alike. At home, they were five completely independent personalities that could still function together, even when there were fights in the ranks.  By contrast, I had just one sister, a toddler back then, and we spent our days after each others’ blood. At the time, I thought the Frasier sisters were too good to be true. These days, I  ‘d say they were as Penderwick girls. The Penderwick sisters are the stars of Jeanne Birdsall’s best-selling, award-winning series about a realistic (if slightly eccentric) family of sisters.  The first book called (what else?) The Penderwicks: a Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very…

Falling in Love with Fitbit
One of My Stories / January 20, 2017

I’ve never been an athlete.  I was raised in a family that sat whenever they could. Sitting was our clan’s favorite pastime, and our endurance in couch-potatery would have qualified us on the Olympic s if they could have turned it into a competitive sport. The fact that many of us were overweight was no surprise.  The surprise was my sister, who ran for fun, and competed in track as a girl.  Although she could sit, my sis could also move, and she was unafraid of competition.  I was proud of her drive and talents, and she knew that.  But neither believed I’d follow her example. The Infamous Fitbit All of which made my sister’s offer to buy me a Fitbit last May a bit of an awkward phone call. To her credit, Sis knew I was trying to lose weight, and she’s never pressed me to get active.  Her suggested gift would help me lose weight.  But that doesn’t mean I wanted to take it. The few times I had tried exercise before, I’d ended up with sore joints and a lousy attitude.  But it’s hard to turn my sister down, especially when her thought is well-meant.  So, I said yes, thinking…

When We Treat People like they’re Garbage
I know a Good Story / January 17, 2017

When I was 10, I was afraid of the kids that moved in next door.  The children in the house across the alley were younger and smaller than me, but they were a noisy bunch and they always seemed to be spoiling for a fight.  Whenever I went outdoors, they were there, in their yard, calling me fatty, and offering me a knuckle sandwich.  One day, my mother entered the fray, screamed back at the kids and hauled me into the house.  “Keep away from those kids,” she said, even though this was a needless directive.  I wasn’t going near any kid that picked on my size.  “I don’t want you playing with them, they are nothing but P.W.T.”  PWT meant Poor White Trash, the group of people my mother hated most. I thought a lot about those kids while I was reading Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America.  Ms. Isenberg’s central argument of the story is, despite statements to the contrary, America never has been a classless system.  Instead, we segregate ourselves into cliques characterized by income, education, address and antecedents and, where I grew up, the condition of one’s lawn. Where I lived, the homes of the influential and affluent were recognizable by the…

The Rules According to Bud
I know a Good Story / January 12, 2017

There are rules on how to get through life and Bud knows them all.  Let me show you what I mean: RULE 8 Whenever an Adult Tells You to Listen Carefully and Talks in a Real Calm Voice, don’t listen, run as fast as you can because something Real Terrible  is Just Around the Corner and RULE 83 If an Adult Tells You Not to Worry, and You Weren’t Worried Before,  You better Hurry Up and Start ‘Cause You’re Already Running Late These rules may seem like nonsense to you, but to Bud, they’re lessons on how an abandoned child survives during the Depression.  Bud knows the Public Library is a good, warm, place and late-comers to the Mission don’t get fed.  He also knows the world hasn’t been a safe place since his Mom died four years ago. All she left him was a love of reading, the knowledge that his name is Bud, (not Buddy), some posters and painted rocks.  Based on wishful thinking and the posters she kept, Bud believes his father is a musician named Herman Calloway.  When the orphanage and foster home system fail at keeping him safe, Bud decides it’s time to hit the road and find his…

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