To the stated complaints of a few of my Facebook friends, I’ve cut back on my once-weekly excoriations of Mitch Albom. I just felt like I was running out of things to say about him, and it started to feel like a waste of time. But what the hell, he’s still out there, writing and collecting a fat paycheck. And so here I go.
I recently visited my wife’s family in Mexico.
“You’ll stay with us,” they said.
“Which of you?” I asked.
“All of us,” they said.
At first, I thought this was a language barrier thing, the way these particular relatives say, “I love you too much” (translation: “so much”), or the way they pronounce “Meetch.”
But as it turned out, when they said “all of us” they actually meant “all of us.”
They live in the middle of Mexico City.
In a family compound.
Let me start by violating my three-paragraph rule for quoting others’ work, but when you pad out your Sunday column with white space and all those one-sentence paragraphs, you’re asking for it.
And let’s also set aside, for now, the stupid and offensive joke at the Mexicans’ expense for calling a different pronunciation of “Mitch” a “language barrier.” Because I’m hoping that once the guy leaves the family compound, they have a good laugh at how he pronounced “huitlacoche.” In fact, I hope they served him some. But I digress.
Mitch, it turns out to the surprise of not one sentient being who read the first few lines, thinks family compounds are the best:
It’s such a loving, embracing environment, that inevitably, I wondered, “Why don’t we live this way in the States?’”
And then I remembered.
We used to.
Yes, we did. It was not uncommon, once upon a time, for children to sleep four to a room and grandma to have a little room off the kitchen. We lived that way for one reason: Because more people were poor, and there was no safety net, and anyone who thinks it was all fun and games should talk to the people — 99 percent of them female — who bore the brunt of all that loving and embracing. Because it came with a lot of cooking and butt-wiping, too. Mitch’s wife must come from some money in Mexico, because the compound he’s describing — four walled houses sharing a common inner courtyard — is not exactly the way the rank and file lives in North America’s largest Third World city. So let’s allow there’s a goodly amount of loving and embracing there, with the harder work left to maids.
Finally Mitch gets around to acknowledging maybe family togetherness isn’t all beer and skittles, with this:
According to the 2010 census, 4.4% of American households are multi-generational. That’s up from 3.7% 10 years earlier, or about 1 million households.
I’m guessing it is because of the economic downturn, foreclosures pushing families under one roof. But it’ll be interesting to see once we get used to having grandmas and grandpas and cousins and in-laws around, how fast people will want to disengage.
My guess is, they’re going to want to disengage pretty damn quickly. I’ve known my share of big families sharing small spaces, and it left me with a new appreciation for a room of one’s own with a door that closes. And those were only large mom/dad/kids families. Add some in-laws and grandmas, and I don’t see how anyone stays sane.
But of course, the ultimate irony to all of this is Mitch Himself, a man who has apparently made the choice to remain childless. He married his girlfriend after Morrie Schwartz persuaded him to make a little more time for non-work life, but it never went further than that. From time to time he’ll write about his nieces and nephews, but if he has any regrets about not increasing the Albom family through birth or adoption, he only shares them when he’s envying someone else’s arrangements, and even then he doesn’t seem to get it. Why don’t families live together anymore, he whines, without noting that he never let anything other than work guide his decisions.
I hear he has a big house. He could take in a few family members, if he’s missing ’em so badly.
And there’s a one-sentence paragraph for you.
Oh, my, more rain today. A beautiful day yesterday, but I had to work. Today I filled the prescriptions for the eyedrops I have to start taking two days before my surgery, which brought it all home a bit more. Along with the typos. And the testiness about Albom.
But for now, let’s let this all go. And get some bloggage:
Big language warning on this, but worth your time for some of the excellent obscenities trotted out to abuse this InfoWars dipshit, caught trying to do a standup in Boston by a passerby. Who had his own camera. And let him have it: I’m the smart guy, because I’m not telling people the FBI blew up the Boston Marathon, you fucking shitheel.
I’m thinking that story is going to get the Boston Globe at least one and maybe several Pulitzer Prizes this time next year, and one might be for this great tick-tock in Sunday’s paper.
Although I also liked this piece from the Sunday NYT, on the thwarted dreams of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and how readily the hole in his heart was filled by the radical posing he pursued next.
And now it’s on to Sunday evening, pork tenderloin on the grill and “Mad Men.” Let’s have a good week.