Issue #155: Refund

Our new issue, “Refund” was curated and edited by One Story contributing editor Karen Friedman, and so I am passing the blog-reins into her steady and talented hands. I hope you all enjoy this wonderful tale about the complicated role of parenting a gifted child.-HT

Both of my children look like my husband, my son in particular. (Although, at only 7 weeks-old, who knows how long this will last.) The thing is, increasingly I find myself fixating on the color of his eyes. Right now they are blue like my own – the same shade as my father’s and my grandfather’s eyes. Rationally speaking, I know it’s a little meaningless nothing, and yet, it feels like an important tether. An outward signal of other characteristics we might share. Of ownership. Of belonging.

“Refund” by David James Poissant explores some similar territory. Upon discovering that his son, Josh, has been selected to join the gifted class, the main character, Sam, struggles with his desire for his son to be “normal” instead, to be like him. While the outside world unquestioningly values the label “gifted”, Sam is dismayed. It delineates so starkly the differences between father and son – differences that Sam fears will ultimately take his child from him.

The beauty in Poissant’s story lies in his exploration of the intricate web of pride, love, and blame that accompanies raising a child and hoping to do the best for him, even when it’s not clear how or what that might be, even when it might be the worst alternative for a parent. For more information about how the story was developed, read our Q&A with the author.

As for my son’s eyes, if they turn mostly brown like my daughter’s, I’ll get over it. But both of them better love books.

Issue 142: Housewifely Arts

For our next issue, I’m handing the introductory reins over to contributing editor Karen Friedman, who saw “Housewifely Arts” through our editorial process. Hope everyone enjoys this moving story of mothers and daughters as much as I did. The last line got me teary, every time.-HT

The first time I read “Housewifely Arts” by Megan Mayhew Bergman, I was struck by her uncanny and honest portrait of motherhood. When we meet the narrator, she’s traveling down I-95 with her seven-year-old in tow, seeking out an African Gray parrot once owned by her mother. The eight-hour journey stems from a haphazard, desperate desire to hear her deceased mother’s voice once more. As the story unfolds we learn their relationship had been full of the little fault lines that develop between mother and daughter over a lifetime.

Precisely because of their size, those little fault lines are what grabbed my attention. There’s no physical abuse, no drunken betrayals – nothing that screams, “pay attention, for now we’re in the realm of dramatic truth”. It’s a deceptively simple story about people trying their best, and sometimes falling short.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I was drawn to Megan’s story. If you could see them, the bags under my eyes are obvious, and a direct result of raising a two-year-old. In thinking about how to introduce Megan’s story to our readers, I went through an embarrassing number of drafts, waxing poetic about the ways motherhood changed me, and in particular my relationship with my own mother. I tried talking about the cult of perfect parenting (see here for a great article on that subject), or the weird trend of mother/daughter best friends (which completely creeps me out), and on and on.  But none of it seemed to do justice to the quiet elegance and humor of Megan’s prose. Everything I thought of was just too overwrought.

In the end, I love her story because it reassures me that I’m not the only person out there struggling with a lifetime of small regrets and fears of passing them on to my child. Megan writes with a deft hand, making us laugh and cry in good measure. Read our Q&A with Megan Mayhew Bergman to learn more about “Housewifely Arts”. But above all read her story. Then call your mother.