Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Loss of Memory

Over the weekend Memory Girl and Auntie's daughter borrowed my Memory game and the book Not a Stick. Unfortunately, they got left out overnight in the thunderstorm. The book actually survived in decent shape, but the Memory cards were pretty much ruined. I let the girls divide up the ones that hadn't totally fallen apart and take them home.

I forget where I got that, but I'll have to go looking for a replacement. Once Memory returns, I think I'll have to be a bit stricter about how long you can use it and getting it back before night time.

On Sunday night we took out the ladder and Sarah, Brady Bughunter, a couple of his cousins and Jay-Z all got some turns climbing up and picking the long green cylinders off my tree that isn't a maple tree. I wish I knew what kind of tree this is, but I don't. The pods are a foot long and solid. I assume it is some kind of seed, but if so, it's all one seed--we opened one up and didn't find seeds inside.

Jay-Z helped me transplant my basil into a big pot. He dug the hole, and I put the plant in to make sure it was at the right level. Then he filled in the dirt while I went over and turned on the hose, gently. He picked up the hose and watered the newly potted plant.

"Thanks for helping, Jay-Z," I said.

"I like helping," he answered.

Lest we forget, this is the same kid who has a mother in jail and a father on the corner with a bottle in his hand. One or maybe even two of his cousins just got out of the big house. His auntie worries he will grow up to be a criminal.

I worry about that, too. And I worry that people will look at Jay-Z and never even know that he likes to chase bugs and pick pods off trees and that he likes to be helpful if you give him a job to do.

I don't know if it's a cultural loss of memory or if we just don't want to know, but we seem to be good at forgetting that "those kids" who struggle in school, who get in trouble, who make great fodder for sociological study, they really aren't all that terribly different from "our kids:" nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, kids known to the people who study sociology or write newspaper columns about "those kids."

So I hope I don't forget Jay-Z's smile on the ladder, reaching for the green pod hanging just beyond his fingertips.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you describe a little more the mystery tree? (or put up a picture?) I've got my audubon out and am trying to look it up...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the problem is more one of scale and less one of memory. Due to the large scale of the geography of a city, the people who write about "those kids" probably never live in a community with them, and therefore never knew them enough to have memories to forget.

Your post reminds me of a story that I heard once about women in a rural community, around the 1930's, give or take a couple of decades. The gist of the story was that the friends of a particular woman would hold a quilting session or some other group activity at her house when her husband had been drinking. It was their way of protecting her from physical abuse by her husband. The storyteller made it sound like it was effective.

In communities of smaller size, all the kids go to the same school, and kids who have less family support and/or poor family role models have more opportunities to meet and develop relationships with other adults who can point them in better directions. And, those other adults are more likely to see "those kids" as part of their community, because they are in the same class, Scout troop, or possibly even neighborhood as their own children.

You are doing this for the children in your neighborhood; unfortunately, you are a rare gem. In a city, with its large geographical scale, it's much more likely that neighborhoods and schools will be sorted by socioeconomic status because there's more space for people to spread out and sort themselves. My rural town of 4000 people is about 2 miles by 2 miles, probably the size of one Chicago neighborhood. In it, you find people at all socioeconomic levels; I suspect it is more diverse in that way than most Chicago neighborhoods.

I suspect that you need to promote "intercultural exchange" to get people to understand about your point about JayZ. They need to learn it in the first place, rather than remember something that they once knew and then forgot.

Pam Barry said...

It's probably a Catalpa. I'll look into getting you a tree guide.
Pam

John Stoner said...

Have you told him how you feel? There are probably a lot of good responses to 'I like helping.' The best one that comes to mind is 'You're such a great kid, Jay-Z. You can come over and help any time.' I wonder how much he hears that message.

John Stoner said...

The issue of scale is aggravated by property taxes. As gentrification proceeds, property values rise, and poorer people can't pay their property taxes. In a smaller town, there's less differentiation by location. In Chicago, Maritza's same building would be a lot more expensive to live in in Lincoln Park than Back of the Yards. So there's even more sorting than you might think.

It's a hard question, because property taxes (are supposed to) pay for schools, and property values are usually more stable than, say, income. Schools need stable funding.

I believe in class-mixing, and Maritza is doing a better job than I am. But I also believe in cities, especially as the human population continues to rise.

Maritza said...

I tried to post a comment earlier, just to say thanks for all the discussion and I'll try to go out and take a photo of that tree sometime soon.

I'm a bit swamped with work at the moment, but please feel free to carry on the conversation. Thanks for all the comments!

Anonymous said...

Maritza, i was checking out the stats in the 60609 zip code and was linked to two other web sites
http://www.city-data.com/soz/soz-60609.html
and

http://www.isp.state.il.us/sor/sor.cfm

I couldnt believe all the Sexual Predators that live in our community especially some that are on Mashfield and 50th and Ashland and 50th. I wonder if there is anything that we can do to get the word out especially since there are so many kids that are out on the street!

Maritza said...

I just took a really quick look--and the city data page wouldn't come up for me (said page not found).

I actually think it would be more productive to bring down some workshops on helping kids and parents recognize and prevent sexual exploitation and abuse than to go on a campaign about particular individuals.

The one person I recognized in my quick tour, from the description of the crime, sounds like someone I'd rather not let my daughter date, but not a pedophile.

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