Here are some of my favorite passages that I’ll share before shelving my copy of the book.
Age 6 or 7:
“Above, I search the purple and choppy sky for the firs star of the evening. Too cloudy. I become aware that our yard is swarming in lightning bugs. A train whistles. Crickets are in full symphony. As I run circles through the weedy yard, I imagine the lightning bugs are stars and I’m in a rocket ship hurtling through space where my father sings.” (page 44)
(Previously was told that radio waves go out into space and keep traveling outward for all time. His father was in a band.)
Age 6 or 7:
He has a crush on a girl at school. He wrote her a note saying he loves her and included some of his prized drawings created around Halloween time. He gave them to her at school and she said she’d look at them later.
“A block from Hawthorn, on the sidewalk, a lump of runny leaves reveals something white, something that didn’t fall from a tree. The envelope is smeared with muddy footprints. The writing looks familiar. “To: Nancy.”
In the street, in the rotting leaves, curled along the curb, wet drawings of pumpkins, black cats, bats, a skeleton.
I scoop them up, cradling them against my windbreaker – leaves are mixed in – and take them home to my room, where I shove them under my bed to dry. I don’t tell my parents about Nancy. I don’t tell them about the other boys, the names, the hitting. They have enough to worry about as it is.” (page 52)
The author grew up in a home cluttered with stuff. He talked about seeing houses that gave him an idea for how other people’s homes looked. He lived in the city, not in a suburb
“We make our way west on the interstate, past the bridge where the car fell, to the suburbs where all the houses repeat like Monopoly pieces. I dream of living in one of these “cookie-cutter houses” as my father calls them. The lawns are perfectly manicured, the sidewalks and driveways spotless, uncracked. I imagine what these houses are like inside; I know they must be clean and orderly. If I’m lucky I catch a glimpse, from a garage, of a rec room or a finished basement. On rare occasions, if Artie or I have to use the bathroom, the sellers invite us in. We might go through a kitchen, the appliances white and gleaming. I might pass a child’s bedroom, the bed made, baseball pennants hanging on the wall. There are no crayons inside these houses, only open fields of carpet.” (page 65)
Talking about mowing the weeds and grass on a lot the family owns:
“As soon as I finish the weeds retaliate, and I must begin again.
All I do, it seems, is mow and chop, keeping the weeds at bay, but the constant drone of the mower allows my mind to drift. I sing, too, confident that my voice is drowned out by the mower. I also draw with the mower, creating scenes in the weeds. Every so often I stop and run up the hill to look upon what I’m drawing. I attempt landscapes of mountains and trees. And also downtown buildings. If I make a mistake, I mow over my efforts and wait a few days to try again. The lot is like a giant Etch A Sketch.” (page 86)
His father used stuff they had lying around to convert a red metal wagon into a covered wagon.
“I’m inside now, stretching, my legs and feet dangling in the summer air. My father is the perfect father. He loves me by building covered wagons. And my mother is the perfect mother, sacrificing her nicest bedding for her son’s toy.” (page 91)
(The only white sheet they owned was her best sheet and his father insisted they use it rather than the old floral sheet she initially offered.)
From his teenage years, after seeing his girlfriend’s parent’s bedroom:
“Our family may not have the nicest house on the block, or the tidiest, but at least my parents don’t sleep in separate beds. When we are sad, we show it. And when we’re laughing at the TV, we laugh loudly, so everyone on our street can hear how much fun we are having. We worry about one another more than other people, too, I’m convinced; there’s not a better way to show love.” (page 171)
From his adult years, the father of a baby, about working drawing cartoons after everyone is asleep, he writes about the baby waking and he calms him, then goes back to work.
“After I return Josh to his crib, I watch his chest rise and fall with the softness of butterfly’s wings. Peeking in on Joni, I watch her breathe, too, finally pulling myself away to return to my drawing table, tidying my mess, stacking newspaper clippings. When I am sure the ink is completely dry, I erase, brushing the dust into my hand, carefully transporting it outside. The May air is cool and damp from an earlier shower. I swing my arm, opening my fingers, releasing the eraser dust, which dissolves instantly into the night.” (page 193)
While working at a grocery store stocking the baby aisle, he shares this:
“Joni and I hadn’t planned on having a child so soon – we had not even discussed children. But when Josh arrived, health problems and all, he brought out in me the belief that I could somehow reverse all I was attempting to escape. This is why I let Josh strum my mandolin and guitar with his soft pink fingers. I never force him. I will support and encourage him no matter what he loves. Just as he needs physical nourishment, I will also provide him with emotional nourishment –the ingredient that can’t be found in any aisle.” (page 211)
I really enjoyed reading this book. If you like these passages perhaps you should read the book.
Disclosure: I did not receive monetary payment to write this review from any source. I received an advance reading copy of this book through the Amazon.com Vine review program. I cannot resell this book or give it away. It’s retail value to me is therefore $0. I do not own this book per the Amazon Vine agreement and must give it back to them if they request it.
Technorati Tags: Inklings, Inklings book review, memoir, Jeffrey Koterba.