Saturday, January 17, 2009

The memoir via NYTimes

We're working on memoirs in my BU class.

For some great, short memoirs, see The New York Times Magazine “Lives” column.

I remembered the story about the kids who were denied all fast and sugary foods as I made my son’s white bread sandwich this morning. Looking for that story, I discovered the most recent column, about an encounter on a commuter train. Both are quite good.

Look for the changes of heart. They are subtle.

From "Visting Day"

“After asking the father’s permission, I let the boy choose which half of the muffin he wanted because, in a logic particular to children, one half is the superior half. We talked about the muffin (really good) and blueberries in general (we liked them) and what grade he was in (first) and his best subject (reading). The things I tend to talk about with a child are rarely of interest to either of us. Then I asked, “Where are you going today?”

“To visit my mother,” he told me.

“Isn’t that something?” I said. “So am I. We’re both going to visit our mothers.” Taking hold of his father’s shirt sleeve, the boy tugged on it. “She’s going to visit her mother, too. Can she ride with us?” Ride with them? Ride with them where? Oh, no. Too late, I realized, the ride was the ride to Bedford Hills Correctional Center. “

From "Forbidden Nonfruits"

“I had found my wedge issue, the inherent contradiction in my parents’ dueling child-rearing impulses — their proud insistence upon a child’s right to self-determination versus the desire to feed the family as if we were a stable of horses.

My father, a lawyer, intervened with a compromise. My sister and I would each be allowed to pick out a box of sugary cereal once a year on our birthdays. I usually went with Frosted Flakes. My sister went straight for the hard stuff, choosing noxiously sweet boxes of Cocoa Puffs or Cookie Crunch…”

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