Would Your Life Story Fit In a Box? What We Learn From Our Ancestors

October 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

The Matchbox DiaryOur month of Birthday Mania was bound to have some fall out. Last night, after a particularly exhausting day for my kids (school followed by swim lessons followed by dinner out with friends), I finished putting Emily down and walked into JP’s room to begin his story time. I found my newly-turned six year old curled up in a ball on his bed, sobbing into the deflated husk of his bright green birthday balloon, a remnant from last weekend’s party. “My buh-buh-buh-buh-llllooooon!” he convulsed. “It’s all I have left from my bestest day evvvvvvv-errrrrrrr!” And then he looked at me with lion eyes: “I want a new balloon RIGHT NOW!”

As parents, we’ve all been here. Missed that window to leave the park, to leave the restaurant, to get into bed. So. Far. Gone. I tried the parenting-with-empathy approach: “It’s hard when something so fun comes to an end, huh?” But the wailing continued, accompanied now by a strange rocking of the shriveled green mass. I need to get this poor kid in bed. “Wait! I know!” I offered. “We can save it and put it in your memory box!” JP eyed me suspiciously. “Not that box that you keep, Mommy. I’m going to start my own memory box and make a special pillow in it for my balloon stub.”

Just a few weeks earlier, JP and I had been discussing the concept of “memory boxes,” after reading Paul Fleischman’s extraordinary and deeply moving new picture book, The Matchbox Diary (Ages 6-10). The book chronicles the life story of an Italian-American boy, who sailed with his family to Ellis Island in search of a better life. « Read the rest of this entry »

Dump It In, Smash It Down

April 30, 2012 Comments Off on Dump It In, Smash It Down

Hooray for Garbage Day! Until two years ago, when we relocated from Chicago to Alexandria, VA, if you’d asked me what day of the week was garbage day, I would have looked at you blankly. But all that has changed. Every Thursday morning, when the sound of the garbage truck is heard turning the corner onto our street, giddiness erupts in our household. Breakfast spoons are laid down, the front door is thrown open, and we stand in PJs waving at the orange-clad workers as they dump our trash into their giant steel crushers. And the best part is that they wave back with enthusiasm (and make funny faces at Emily and beep their horn for JP).

Mr. Giddy, the central character in Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha’s Trashy Town (Ages 18 mos-4) is just this kind of “trashman,” the kind who tips his hat at schoolkids, who pauses to pet the dalmatian at the fire station. But it’s the rhyming refrain that makes this book a contagious, bring-down-the-house read-aloud: “Dump it in, smash it down, drive around the Trashy Town!”

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