Category: writing Page 2 of 23

On Marriage

Sometime in the early dark of evening on this winter solstice, my marriage to Kelly will officially turn 18 years old. It will be old enough to vote. Our relationship has really grown up. Heck, it’s old enough to get married itself! These, I should point out, are the khaki-wearing Dad-joke punchlines I’ve been wearing out the last several days. When you’ve been married for 18 years, it means you are officially old enough* to make cornball quips like this.

The term of years in this year’s anniversary hit me a bit harder than normal. Perhaps it’s because I remember turning 18 myself–because I was in college. When I turned 18, among other things, I bought a pack of cigarettes at the convenience store. I didn’t smoke, but I thought it would be interesting just to buy a pack, Joe Cool on campus and whatnot. Fortunately our marriage behaves much better than a college freshman.

Newlyweds often mark anniversaries with notes about how in love they are, or how lucky they are to spend the rest of their lives with their partners. Couples who are new parents change up the language a bit, admiring their other halves for the mothers or fathers they are.

We Came for Salvation

Who would have thought watching a concert on top of a minivan in a speedway infield would be so cathartic?

I didn’t see a professional concert—as in a big, touring band—until I was in high school. We saw Billy Joel in Greenville, South Carolina. Kelly and I, who were high school sweethearts at that point, made the hour-and-a-half trip to city neither of us had ever been to. We had lucked into seats in the fourteenth row (still the best seats at a show I’ve ever gotten), so close Billy Joel could spit on us if he wanted to. It was amazing.

My kids, on the other hand, got to experience their first big concert in the midst of a pandemic that has cancelled almost every major touring schedule nationwide.

Nothing about a concert, either indoors or out, seems like a wise thing to do as we grapple with a virus that’s best spread through close contact. But when the Avett Brothers, as local of a big-time band as we probably have, decided they needed to play in front of actual, live people, they figured out a creative way to do it.

The kiddos check out the pre-show film from the back hatch.

For the Historians

The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942
The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942.

What would the Greatest Generation think of us?

I had to write a paper for a doc class this summer that examined the history of community colleges in a national, state, and local context, an assignment that gave me the opportunity to revisit Bill Moose’s very good history of Mitchell Community College. The college’s narrative is one of institutional persistence, of the gut-borne determination to survive.

In the fall of 1918, as the first World War was drawing to a close, the flu pandemic forced Mitchell to close its doors and send its students home. The town mostly shuttered and folks stayed put. The college’s women returned in December; they attended classes six days a week to make up for lost time, taking only Sundays and Christmas Day off.

In the spring of 1919, the flu returned, but this time the college stayed open. Women’s colleges of the day were unapologetically strict about letting their fragile charges wander outside the buildings anyway, so this version of a “stay-at-home” order fit in naturally with the college’s normal operations.

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