Sunday, November 25, 2007

In the Ford Presidential Library

When the airline loses your luggage (and with it your 5 books of Thanksgiving homework) for almost two days, it's sometimes a good thing when your brother-in-law is getting his Ph.d in the field where you got your B.A., because to fill up your luggage-less time when not attending to the cutest niece in the world, he gives you his books to read.

Carried to the Wall was a interesting approach to the legacy of the Vietnam War. By examining first both American funerary traditions and the history of Western war memorials, the book then goes on to explore how the items left at the Vietnam War Memorial are part of changes in those histories, and how they help the living come to terms with both the death of soldier loved ones as well as a national narrative about the War itself. The things left at the Wall then become part of a living memorial, and the National Park Service dutifully documents and stores every item. The book, written by the bro-in-law's advisor or reader or something, was a little depressing in that it was about, well, death and the various ways the dead are remembered, especially ones from a war fought by an internally conflicted nation. But it was insightful. Hass also details the political drama behind the vision and design of the Wall, which of course also fit into the larger issues of personal and national memory.

And when the cutest niece in the world is being a miniature crab apple and fights her instinct to fall asleep, it turns out a playlist of Beatles songs and humming "Flower of Scotland" and "Scotland the Brave" works, and she zonks out. It gets old, though. Other times, though, she's awake and just wants to party.

So we watched Madagascar, which I admit I didn't view with any critical depth because I was alternating between cramming in my recently-delivered homework and walking the baby (as well as changing diapers for the first time ever). It seemed like it was basically a twist on the City Mouse and the Country Mouse tale: not all animals should imitate Free Willy, and anthropomorphic stories let children know everyone has a "place," however that is construed.

But a deserted Ann Arbor offers little aside from the Ford Presidential Library, so after a day of rest from turkey over-ingestion, Mi Hermana and I left the baby with my bro-in-law and headed out to do some outlet shopping. (The Fundraising Queen has a theory that discount shoe stores in non-urban areas have a better selection of city-appropriate shoes, and of course I immediately sent her a text message confirming the validity of her hypothesis, at least when applied to the wilds of Michigan. I 've been overdue for a replenished shoe collection for quite a while.)

Then we had fun shopping for baby clothes, both boys' and girls'. Because of course, aside from the bundle of harmony (wink wink) we left back in Ann Arbor to hit the retail gauntlet, there is another family bundle of joy (wink wink) due in late February. Tia B went a little, um, crazy buying baby shower gifts and the niece's Christmas presents. . . .

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