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Thatwhich

Letters from my dad

My dad used to make homemade noodles. He was from southern Illinois, from a long line of noodle-makers. The express purpose of making noodles was to serve them with a chicken, and not any kind of chicken. It had to be a stewing chicken—not roasting, not frying. He sent me his chicken-noodle instructions, and that’s what I was looking for when I came across some letters he wrote to me in 1983, the year I lived in Hawaii. Read More 
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Getting a little squirrelly

Ghosts of chipmunks past: Grandpa Swanson with a chipmunk on his head. You can see my reflection as I took the photo of the photo, and floating above my head, the reflection of Uncle Pete, who took the original.
We just brought Churchy inside for the second night in a row, which means there’s no more denying it: summer is over. This evening I found him under the chives, barely able to squeeze his turtle body into his shell, full from a season of sun-gold tomatoes, blueberries, worms, and the occasional raw mini-meatball set aside from our hamburger dinner.  Read More 
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Watching the night come in

Watching the world go by on East 9th Street, summer 1984
I like to watch the night settle in, wherever I am. It started when I moved to New York City in my twenties. I lived in a sublet apartment with two friends who immediately left to work on a movie set in Vermont, leaving me to adjust to life in the big city. I got a job at a bookstore in the Village. John DeLorean was a customer, as was the guy who was the voice of Winnie the Pooh.  Read More 
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Baptism in Spider Lake

For my godmother, Cynthia Ekren

A couple weeks ago, a tiny spider jumped from my desk lamp to my laptop. I pay attention to these things. If it had been a big, scary-looking spider, and it was crawling on me, I would not pay much attention, which is to say I would scream and jump around until it was off me.  Read More 
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Take my religion, please.

Never has a Muslim, Buddhist, or Jew come to my house, knocked on the door, and tried to convince me to believe what he believes. But this morning, a couple of middle-aged women in calico pinafores came up the driveway and rang the bell. Church ladies: I could see it as they approached.  Read More 
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Happy birthday, baby girl.

Today, my sweet baby Madeline would have been 20. Of course, she wouldn’t be a baby, although I’m assuming she’d still be sweet. But honestly, having raised two of my offspring to their teen years, genetically speaking, it’s not pure-cane sugar. There’s a certain predisposition, not necessarily bitter, but a healthy skepticism. Yes, I’d like to think we shared that. Read More 
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Intractable Me

Like so many disputes through the ages, it all goes back to a tractor; specifically, a Farmall H. It was a gift from my father-in-law to his son. We lived on 80 acres of sand, and though Mark was never going to grow a crop of food to sell, he did aspire to a mighty big vegetable garden. He hadn’t let go of the idea of building a trout farm, but had long since given up on being the first pot-smoking president.  Read More 
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Be the Love of Your Life: A Commencement Address

Funny, nobody asked me to give a celebrity commencement address this year, or offered an honorary degree. It’s too bad, because I think I could deliver a fine speech. (And having copyedited about a hundred social-science manuscripts, I believe I’ve earned the equivalent of a Master’s in Esoteric Navel-Gazing.) So herewith is my commencement address,  Read More 
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Elementary, my dear

1st grader, Golfview Elementary
In the way that happens when you move back to the town you grew up in, I ended up at the elementary school where I started. It’s not an elementary school anymore, but an “alternative learning center.” I went to a meeting there with my daughter.

When I was a kid, the school parking lot overlooked the water plant. (An odd concept to me now: there was a factory where water was produced?) The most exciting news that could pass through the corridors was “Fight between Randy S. and so-and-so. Meet at the water plant after school.” Read More 
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It was a different time.

My high school doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in name. The building still exists, which is a good thing, since my eldest is graduating from there in June. But the place where I earned my high school diploma is gone.

Maybe it’s just as well. It’s the people that matter,  Read More 
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