On the Home Front

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Today was a challenging blogging/reading day. I was puppy-sitting again and the puppy was acting like a nap-deprived toddler. Although maybe that's not the best analogy, because I've never actually seen a toddler throw a fit that culminated in him trying to eat the furniture and tear up the carpet. The puppy has a bit of a deviant streak, and responds to being told "No" by trying to destroy the nearest furniture/shoes/pillows/carpet, and by racing through the house as fast as he can while barking, leaping from one piece of furniture to the next, and trying to bite people). Needless to say, there were a few hours today where I didn't get anything read, and I've spent the last hour or so trying to place catch up.

Today's book; "Born in 1914 on Chicago's West Side to first-generation Irish immigrants, Mary Jo was the fourth of seven children. Her father Jack was a marble worker, her mother Maude a commercial color artist. Through Mary Jo's endearing first-person accounts, time stands still and we are afforded a privileged glimpse of a world gone by. Mary Jo's distinctive style animates these touching and sometimes lighthearted stories of family and friends, love and war, school and work."

I had such high hopes for today's book because it was about my favorite time period in history - and the title instantly sucked me in because it reminded me of my all-time favorite TV show Homefront. I'm still upset about that show getting canceled - which is really pathetic considering it was canceled in 1993. Despite my high hopes, or maybe because of them, I found this book a disappointment. Reading the stories in it were like listening to a storyteller who has an interesting story to tell, but just doesn't know how to tell it in an entertaining way. Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a conversation where you feel like it's all building up to something wonderful - you're waiting . . . on the edge of your seat . . . and you can sense that something interesting is just about to happen and then . . . nothing. Nothing interesting comes of it - it just sort of peters out. That's what reading this book felt like - and normally that's not such a bad thing with a book, because I can just stop reading and find a more interesting book to read. But, in this case, I was already half-way through the book before I finally let go and accepted that it wasn't going to get anymore interesting, and by then it was too late to start over with a different book.

I guess I could just be an egomaniac (and I do think there's a very real possibility of that) but I find my family's stories much more interesting than the ones in this book. That's the one good thing that came out of reading this book - it made me serious think about all the great family stories that I should be writing down before they are forgotten: of my Grandmother accidentally setting herself on fire, and my Mother's Aunt from one side of the family marrying her Uncle from the other side, and my Dad digging a basement under our house while we were still living in it, and my Dad driving through a blizzard to see my Mother because (as my Mom said, with just a hint of bitterness in her voice, "He was actually fascinated with me then."), my Great-Uncle liberating a concentration camp and then later (during the late 40's/early 50's) moving to Hollywood where he worked on a construction crew that renovated the homes of movie stars. While reading this book I kept thinking that I really shouldn't let those memories pass by without recording them - and then I came to the blog to write today's entry and I started to notice just how many family stories have crept into blog entries already. And sometimes they creep in at the most unexpected times - it almost as if the stories have a life of their own and need to be told - or maybe I'm just being melodramatic, that's a distinct possibility as well.

The book also brought back some unpleasant childhood memories. First there was the chapter about his mother's bout with pleurisy that caused an instant high school flashback (for those of you who don't know what it is but don't feel like looking it up, that's an inflammation of the lining of the lungs). I think pleurisy is a really unpleasant sounding word for an illness - it sounds like a disease from the Middle Ages, the kind that would turn into a plague - so I refer to instead as "the reason I almost failed gym class." Yes indeed, for you skeptics out there, getting a bad grade in gym class is possible. All you need to achieve it is a really mean gym teacher who thinks you're faking a lung problem (I'm not sure how she thought I pulled off faking an x-ray, but that's neither here nor there), a really severe stabbing pain in your left side, and a stubborn streak that results in you declining to participate in all gym-related activities. Then there was the chapter about childhood injuries which caused a childhood flashback to the "broken leg incident of '84" (I'm kidding, that's not really what we call it, I just like the drama of calling it an incident - stories always become more interesting when the word incident is used in the title). My Mother loves telling that story, she forces everyone who will stand still long enough to listen to the extended 25 minute version. I'll give you the 30 second version here: someone ran over my leg with a bike when I was four, I pretended like it didn't hurt because I was afraid my mother wouldn't let me go Trick-or-Treating if she knew it was broken, so I walked around on it for a day before anyone realized it was broken, and as a result the leg healed so badly that I can now use my leg to predict the weather. I can actually feel a storm coming - which makes me feel like a senior citizen, but without the great stories about World War 2 and the fabulous pictures that came from being alive during a time period when people wore hats a lot.

ETA: I don't know why some of the words have huge spaces between them, I'm working on fixing it.