Archive for the ‘memoir’ Category


March 28, 2009

“Watch this,” my wife says as dinner winds up.

Our younger son is repeating “Deh, deh” and making the signs for down and please.  His brother, just two years older, steps over, scooches back the high chair, and works at the belt clips.  Some fidgeting ensues, to which he comically reassures, “Not yet, just a minute.”  Amazingly it works: the little one stills, watching his brother’s progress with a patient, bemused smile.  These roles – rehearsed, I presume, over that day’s breakfast and lunch – are played eagerly.

When the belt does fall loose the younger boy tilts, torso careening forward.  His arms wrap around his brother’s neck; big brother grabs him tight around the chest.  Their faces mash into each other’s shirts, making me wonder how the older boy can see as his spine arches back to drag his brother’s girth from the seat.  Eighteen months of boy is a serious load for a three-and-a-half-year-old.  Other children lift my younger son, but they’re five, six.  Three and a half is still little – little and determined.

* * *

Flash.  I am on Isla de Cabras, Puerto Rico.  Grass, waves, gangly coconut trees.  I’m fifteen.  (more…)


the vine

November 25, 2008

Sixty feet high, the concrete cylinder had been built into the side of a small mountain ridge.  Along the front rose a convenient set of metal rungs.

We climbed them, of course.  There wasn’t even a fence – not that that could have kept a group of bored middle school Army brats from the only adrenaline-pumping obstacle on base.  That water tower was our Mount Everest.

Engineers had snuggled it into the ridge’s embrace so that a rocky slope wrapped up and around toward the back.  Between tower and ridge gaped a trench ten feet wide.  This afforded an unusual experience: climb the rungs, cross the top, and ogle low-growing ferns and tree trunks just there, mere feet away … with a vertical abyss in between.


it’s not easy

January 28, 2008

In the middle of naptime he screams. One knee is twisted between two crib rails, driving him to panic. Must’ve been playing instead of sleeping.

As my wife disentangles him, she gets a whiff of another stealth activity. He is surrounded by corroborating evidence: a smear across his chest, clawmarks on his sheet, makeup applied to the face of his stuffed cow. What arrived in his diaper is now everywhere.

I am summoned. Together we adults impress upon our child the seriousness of this infraction. Do not play with poopy. Do not even touch it. We strip him of his clothes and make a pile of blankets, sheets and Mr. Cow. (more…)

getting a student’s attention

August 20, 2007

Ralph’s first essay of the year left something to be desired.

Your sentences are full of comma splices (CS), I wrote. The revision is due next week. Please stop by after school before then so we can work on fixing them.

The class was Honors English. Ralph was a junior, and by that point he really shouldn’t have been mashing sentences together with commas as if the period had never been invented. My remark and the many “CS” circles on his paper should have prompted him to accept my help.

Every day that week I waited for Ralph after school. He never showed. (more…)

barcode attack!

June 6, 2006

Barcode stickers. Scads and scads of them at work, sheet after sheet, all being thrown out. A senseless waste.

I grabbed a stack of sheets and headed home.

It was imperative, of course, to blanket my roommates’ rooms in barcodes, but first I opted for subtlety: two stickers, in highly visible yet natural locations. Wait a few days. Four more stickers, in slightly less-noticeable locations. Wait a few days. Eight more stickers. (more…)