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A Life-Changing Moment
April 2, 2012 |
Dear Mr. Keillor,
I am writing you from Concord High School where I have been assigned to write a report about a comedian of my choice for my sophomore English class. I find A Prairie Home Companion to be an enormously funny radio show, and I was hoping you could share about a life changing moment, in your career or in your everyday life. I'm a big fan, and I'd love to hear from you.
I grew up in the Fifties, in the cornfields north of Minneapolis, Rigby, a stone's throw from the Mississippi, and it was an idyllic boyhood in many ways. We boys rode our bikes around the gravel roads and hung out at a deserted airstrip where pilots had been trained for World War II and some bare shells of old planes sat by the old hangar and of course we loved that and imagined scenes of glory. We played along the river and swam out to an island where we existed for hours without adult supervision and felt the thrill of independence. We played baseball on a vacant lot that we mowed ourselves and built up a pitcher's mound and painted foul lines. Ten years later, the township had become suburb and there were no wild places in which to play and adult supervision was tight and boys played baseball in uniforms in organized leagues, so mine was a privileged boyhood of a sort that's pretty rare today.
In the spring of 1953, I had to get eyeglasses, the old wire-rim kind, which didn't feel right on my face, and I dropped an easy pop fly in right field one afternoon, which felt like a catastrophe at the time. I took a few steps back and settled under it and it came in chest high and caromed off the heels of my hands and the other team hooted and whooped and my teammates did not look at me. Even then it felt like a corner had been turned. I started spending recess in the schoolroom, reading books by the armload, encouraged by Miss Moehlenbrock who told me again and again that I was her brightest pupil. Instead of the respect of my peers, I sought the approval of teachers, a crucial turn in life. A sort of retreat, maybe a betrayal. Teachers and aunts and elders --- they were so grateful for my friendship. So much easier than competing with rivals ---- you turn your face up to an old man and ask a few questions and listen while he talks about the Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corps and Pearl Harbor and his years in the Navy and it changes your life. Could've become a mediocre athlete and instead I became a decent writer.