Dusk

"Spires at Dusk", oil on canvas by Tom McGregor/mcgregorart.com.

Her 80th birthday—“Surprise!”

She smiles from the party photo, her last...

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Roblyn Avenue, 1953

Marianne as a little girl, on the porch of her grandmother’s Roblyn 
Avenue home. (Photo courtesy Marianne McNamara)

The first thing I saw when Dad turned our car down Grandma’s street in Merriam Park was the sky-high catalpa tree in her front yard. It was the only “cigar tree” on the block, and when I spied it, I knew we were almost there. It was a beautiful tree, with frilly white flowers in the spring that magically became long, brown seedpods in late summer.

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Midway Memories

(Photo: Jack Steinnman)

My Hamline-Midway neighborhood is the kind of place where childhood memories are made. Sure, Wisconsin Dells, a Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, and Disney World all have their fair share of excitement and joyous wonderment. But nothing can compare to the warm feeling you get as sticky chocolate ice cream drizzles down your fingers, while you watch your sister try to feed the dog some of hers.

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The Day Marvin Gaye Died

Emmanuel Ortiz performing spoken word at a January 2013 Lowertown Reading Jam. (Illustration: Ta-coumba Aiken/Ta-coumbaAiken.com)

Every generation has its historical moments
Of collective grief and disbelief
Moments we forever remember
Exactly where we were when . . .

The deaths of Kennedy, King, Clemente
The space shuttle Challenger explosion
When the planes hit the towers on 9/11...

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Calling Gadahlski

(Original Almanac illustration: William Birawer/WilliamBirawer.com)

Gadahlski refers to the garage door of the house I grew up in. The house was a modern rambler sitting on a hill in the pristine, well-educated community of St. Anthony Park. My parents, my sister, and I did whatever we could to fit into the mold of “the Park.” The house expressed this desire for perfection with its regularly mowed lawn, clipped hedges, and fresh paint. Even the flower and vegetable gardens were neat and orderly.

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True Myth

(Photo: Bob Muschewske/370SummitStPaul.com)

Tell a child she is composed of parts

(her Ojibway quarters, her German half-heart)

she’ll find the existence of harpies easy

to swallow. Storybook children never come close

to her mix, but manticores make great uncles...

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The Power of Education

James Dee and Rosemarie Cook. (Photo courtesy Patricia Anita Young)

Relax. Think. Who was your favorite teacher? Hold that thought. James Dee Cook doesn’t recall the male teacher’s name but confirms that his third grade teacher was a major force throughout his lifetime. James was born and raised in the Rice neighborhood at the height of the Great Depression and rode the bus to elementary school. Math was James’s art. Like a human calculator, he doodled numbers in his right brain as he played in his sandbox.

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Back Again

St. John's Hospital, circa 1962. (Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)

I took my first breath in St. John’s Hospital at Seventh and Maria. That makes me a native Saint Paulite, even though I grew up in the suburbs. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, many suburban parents-to-be chose Saint Paul hospitals to welcome their babies into the world. As a suburban child, it was a big deal to go shopping at the downtown department stores, and each trip we took, my mom never failed to point out St. John’s at the top of the bluff. “That’s where you two were born,” Mom would remind my brother and me. Anytime my brother and I were fighting in the backseat, Mom would remind us that we’d all wind up back at St. John’s if she crashed the car because we had distracted her.

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Purgatory, or Riding the Bus Home from School

(Original illustration: Leann E. Johnson/www.lea-way.com)

There is no seat you want to sit in, no place
that you belong, so you choose one near
the middle, closer to the back than the front,
one with a kid in it, wearing a faded jean jacket
and striped watch cap. A skinny kid who stares
at his hands, lying in his lap. His fingers are slender,
stunning—and you are ashamed that you notice.

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