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Family valued - 6.14.06 

"No, Mr. Stink, I expect you to die."

We here at the Family Valued paperless office, open-air garden shed, and maladapted pressroom have randomly selected a 10-year-old from among the one immediately available.

So what do you think of when I say "anthropomorphic espionage"?

I think of some word that I don't really know what it means and spies.

What have you been reading lately?

Two books about a spy cat (The Stink Files by Holm & Hamel), and I'm reading a third one that's out. And I've read one book about a spy mouse (Spy Mice by Heather Vogel Frederick).

What's with the animal agents?

Probably because people like spies. It's America and there are a lot of spies. They were in the first World War and World War II.

When do these books take place? What happens?

Modern times. The plot for Spy Mice, there's these two children and they get bullied by mean people and they find out about this spy mice agent, Glory Goldenleaf. The big villain is a rat; he has his own spy organization. He has Glory's father prisoner and they try to rescue him. The Stink Files books are about Mr. Stink, a.k.a. James Edward Bristlefur. The first book is about him adjusting to city life because he's from London and he's used to being out in all that open space.

You know London is a city, a very large city?

It's not as cramped, you know? The second Stink Files is about a cat show and chasing down a villain in the cat show. The third one that I'm reading is about James Edward Bristlefur winning a contest and him being treated like a king. Cats think of him as the King of Catlandia.

What's your favorite part of the books?

"Do you expect me to beg for life?" "No, Mr. Stink, I expect you to die."

I would definitely recommend them.

--- Craig Brownlie


Do you know who your parents are?

Memorial Day week hits me powerfully. Daily reports on the horrors soldiers face in Iraq and elsewhere make the sacrifices of all soldiers impossible not to respect. For me, the week marks the anniversary of my mother's death. This year, a close friend lost his father and an employee lost her husband, both deaths --- like my mother's --- sudden.

It was in this thickly emotional context that I caught part of Diane Rehm's interview with Jean Said Makdisi, whose book Teta, Mother, and Me discusses the lives of three generations of Palestinian women. Makdisi stressed how little most of us ever know about our grandparents. We know basic facts, but next to nothing about how their daily lives unfolded.

My paternal grandfather died young, but my father and my uncle put together a biography a few years back. I'm enormously grateful for this 18-page distillation of a life that, though it never directly touched mine, shaped it in real ways. My children were 5, 3, and newborn when my mother died, but mom left her poetry as a window to her deepest self should her grandchildren become interested. I wonder, though, what my children really know about their maternal grandparents, whom they see regularly.

How do we encourage our children and our parents to provide a bridge to a better understanding? It seems the answer lies in the generation between. But this requires not taking our parents for granted, which is one of the most difficult transitions of attitude in all of life. Their deaths are often the only spur, and by then it's too late.

Some day, hopefully, our children will want to know who their grandparents were. In all likelihood, the grandparents will be gone by then. Be sure you know who they were so you can pass it on.

--- Adam A. Wilcox

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