Favorites - Folks Around Us

These are some of my favorite columns about folks around us:

Aunt Helen and the Tornado

Life can be so weird.

My Aunt Helen called me last night. She and Uncle Ken just returned from a two month trip to Alaska -- they've been traveling a lot since Uncle Ken retired. I expected to hear her rave about the beauty of that spectacular state.

"Oh, Alaska was great, but it was South Dakota where we had the adventure of a lifetime."

South Dakota?

"We were hit by a tornado."

"You mean you saw a real tornado as you were driving the interstate?"

That could be scary.

Joshua Glover

Racine has some amazing stories. Before we moved here I read a tantalizing tidbit about the true tale I am going to tell you today. I have asked people about this story. A few have heard ÒsomethingÓ about it. Most people have no idea that one hundred and forty years ago this town rang a bell that would toll against slavery throughout this land. I visited the Racine County Historical Society to learn more about it.

Real Estate Stories

When we decided to move to Wisconsin we had to sell our house in Chicago. We had cleaned and fixed-up for weeks, it was twenty minutes before the first walk-through, and I was 100% exhausted as I pulled brownies from of the oven (to make the house smell enticing) and lit the artfully laid fire in the fireplace. Then I went upstairs to get the kids.

I came back downstairs eight minutes later.

Roiling smoke filled the living room and billowed down the hall towards the kitchen. Yes. I'd forgotten to open the fireplace damper.

Known as Addressed

I have received many kind notes and remarks from readers since I started writing this column - but I think the kudos I relish most is one I heard about just a few weeks ago.

Awhile back, I wrote about the birthday celebration of a 7th grader I know. He and some friends spent a day at the State Fair last year. They had so much fun one of the kids threw up.

Apparently the post-vomitous kid was so delighted by his inclusion in my column that he cut it out, framed the article, and hung it on his bedroom wall.

A Chance to Chuckle, Grieve and Remember

Last week I received news that my Uncle Irv had died. It wasn't exactly a shock, he'd been ill quite a while. Still, it stuns when we hear that someone we have known all our life has passed away. Like a mournful kid standing at the curb after the parade has passed, we look around and wonder if this is really the end.

I knew the trip back to my hometown for the funeral should be a solo journey. The wake and service would be as deep and rich for me as they would be endless and boring to my kids.

Mrs. Durham

Tuesday morning (5/23/00), this newspaper, page 3A ---
"Court strikes down law that shielded children from sexy TV programs"

Did you read it? An Associated Press story announced that the Supreme Court voted Monday, 5-4, that cable TV companies don't have to arrange their programming to shield kids from sex-oriented materials.

Harry Potter

I did it. I finished reading "Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix." You may think the trick to this was finding enough time in an adult life to read an 870 page kid novel. Nope, the main obstacle was waiting for my three kids to finish it first.

J.K. Rowling is not the most lyrical writer I've ever read, but she is, absolutely, a virtuoso of plot-invention. Her saga of an insecure kid with unusual abilities, growing up into his own power, is completely compelling.

Face It

What do you see in your mind's eye when I mention these places and moments? Friday nights with friends. Saturday morning with family. Fifth Grade. Prom night. Your wedding day, or, the day your divorce was finalized. The evening of September 11, 2001. Cutting down or picking out a Christmas tree. Choosing the cat or dog who became your pet.

Chances are, as you flipped through your internal memory album, a lot of what you saw was faces.

90 MPH Towards a Brick Wall

Part I

David (not his real name, though he says he wishes it was) and I have been friends for 25 years. When either of us calls the other, before we can even identify ourselves, the other one says, "What's up?" We hear each other's grins through the phone. That kind of friend.

Three weeks ago his partner called. "David tried to end his life."

There are many ways for the bottom to drop out of your life.

This is surely one of them.


Dad Birthday

Today -- the day I am writing this -- is my father's birthday. If he had lived he would be 86 years old today, which is a nice age for a fine dad to be. I wish he was here.

He died 37 years ago when he was only 48 and I was just a kid. Yet sometimes, when the sun is shining through the windows at just the right angle, and the kitchen has just the right aroma of a supper cooking, and the door slams with just the right firmness that announces a dad is home from work, well ... sometimes we stop in our tracks remembering those we thought were long gone.