Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How We Do It: Part XXXV in a Series: Normal

Henry, March 2012

This is a meditation on normal. Last night, Henry asked me for help with his Honors English homework. I had to read the short story assigned to them, a John Updike titled A&P, that I'd never read before. I found it exciting and the questions that Henry needed help with, exciting, too. Henry is an incredible reader and a pretty damn good writer, but he currently states that he hates writing and Honors English. He hates getting so deep into a text for annotation and study that the actual reading of it is no longer enjoyable. We talked for a bit about that last night, and I told him about the time I saw Updike at UCLA a couple of months before he died, how his fingers were so long and tapered, how he loved his craft, how I wanted to jump onto the stage and into his lap. We also talked about the upcoming Homecoming Dance, about the girl he invited and what he needs to wear to the dance. I need real slacks, he told me, and shoes. I sat in rare normal, lay in it like a pig in mud. Those of us who are extreme parents generally shush those of you who are not when you counter your normal with comments like oh, I know this is nothing compared to what you go through. We don't want to be any more isolated than we are. We are told that normal is relative. There's no such thing as normal, I've told my sons. My friend who has a son who was normal at two and is now neurologically devastated by a rare disease grapples with a new normal. Last night I recognized normal for what it is. Normal.


  1. A&P is my most favorite short story in the history of short stories. Although, I like pretty much anything by Mr. Updike is superb. I was an English Lit major once upon a time and I felt exactly like your Henry. Unfortunately I didn't press on like a good little soldier and quit college until I found my "passion" that all of the talk show hosts speak of. I've begun to wonder if I will ever find it much like the search for normal. Thank you for sharing with all of us, it makes me feel like there are others out there like me. Like I'm "normal."

  2. Sometimes normal is simply extraordinary.

  3. Put your arms around that normal and hold it tight. x0 N2

  4. Elizabeth too am so relieved by normal when it shows up on my porch with a banana and a jar of peanut butter and maybe a warm blanket. I embrace it once I know there's not a red worm in the banana and that the peanut butter isn't the crunchy kind and the blanket isn't something someone peed on.


    NOT n. today

  5. Hello, Normal. C'mon in.
    Hope Mr. N stays for dinner.

  6. Hannah went to homecoming last weekend and I wallowed in the normal of it too. Yes, wallowing is good at any stage of normal we can find.



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