Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Pros And Cons Of Writing About Your Family

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 14, 2022] ©2022

If there is one universal complaint my family has about me (and it has a lot of competition), it’s that I can’t write a concise message.  I guess it’s the writer in me but why say something in 20 words when you weave in a few amusing tangents in 200?

I suppose I can blame my mother for this.  She always taught me that writing can – and should – be fun, no matter what the subject. Sometimes this concept is even appreciated.  I remember one of my son’s teachers responding to my amusing note excusing him for illness with the reply, “I almost look forward to your kids being sick.”  Actually, in Rory’s case, she probably meant something entirely different but I always chose to read it as an appreciation for my writing skills.                  

I’m sometimes asked by people how my husband and sons feel about my writing about them.  Actually, not much since they don’t read me.  I have to confess that this gives me a great deal more freedom.

Of course, I make my engineer husband, Olof, read the ones I’ve written about him before they’re submitted but even then, I’d bet my next Medicare co-pay he couldn’t even tell me the topic when he’s done.  He has perfected a look of intense concentration as he reads but I’m pretty certain he’s really pondering subjects of more pressing concern to him like Fermat’s Last Theorem or the application of binomial distribution to logistical processes. 

I always say, “So, no objections?”

“No,” he’ll say, “not at all.  It was fine.”

Me (trick question): “So what was your favorite part?” 

Olof (knows it’s a trick question): “All of it!”

Which still doesn’t keep him from coming back a week later when the column is out and saying, “My co-workers said you married me for my skills in pulling a toilet and extracting toy rocket parts.”

And I’ll say, “No, dear.  What I said is that this is not a quality one should overlook in a man, particularly a second husband.  And you approved that column.”

My older son, Rory, meanwhile, a favorite subject of readers, says he doesn’t need to read my column since he generated the content therein.  I’m often asked if I make up the Rory stories.  No.  Believe me, no. Oh, no no no.   You could not make up Rory.

My younger son, Henry, meanwhile, can be described as a man of few words but many emojis.  Seriously, if whatever question you’ve posed doesn’t have an appropriate emoji reply, you’re probably going to get ghosted.  This seems to be considered a legitimate form of communication in his demographic. 

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the emojis even mean. They’re really tiny. And generally arriving on a small phone screen.  But I guess they’re probably better than their predecessors, that alphabet soup of acronyms which for us oldies were fraught with peril.  I wasn’t the only person of my generation who assumed LOL meant “lots of love”. 

Incoming text message:  Just found out this morning the tumor is malignant.

Inga: What? LOL!

Who knew it meant “laughing out loud”?

And since I’ve mentioned ghosting - my least favorite development of the last 100 years -  I personally feel that people who ghost should be buried in unmarked graves with a Post-it note tacked to the ground saying “Couldn’t be bothered to reply.” #who’scryingNOW?

As a precursor to my current column, I wrote a four-to-six page blog every week when we lived abroad on a work assignment.  Here Mom was having the adventure of her middle-aged life, an unexpected two-year sojourn in Europe (well, it was supposed to be eight months but the Europeans aren’t exactly balls of fire when it comes to deadlines). 

Legions of total strangers were subscribing to the witty saga of the madcap adventures of hers and Olof’s “senior(s) year abroad.”  Henry’s usual comment to the blog?  “Mom - please summarize in three lines or less.”

So what he generally got was:

(1            (1) We are living in Europe.

(It            (2) It is amazing here.

(              (3) They speak a foreign language that we don’t know but which often results in challenging but hilarious situations which I regularly chronicle.

Communicators my sons are not.  As my 60th birthday approached some time back, both sons wanted to know what I might like.  Seizing the opportunity, I said that what would make me happiest would be if they would each write a short letter relating three happy memories they had of me.  I hated to beg, but I wasn’t getting any younger.  Rory, predictably, quickly negotiated down to one.  For his part, Henry replied, “Can’t I just buy you something?”

So there’s obviously some stylistic differences within my family regarding communication. Rather than ambiguous acronyms or funny little figures, I prefer actual words.  Lots of actual words. So read it or not, family members.  But caution:  it’s probably about you.



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