Editor’s Notebook, Regulars and Shorts

Editor’s Notebook: October 2011

By Greta Belanger deJong

Leaf fall from the family tree

I come from a family of writers. My brother Jerry writes books; several of his offspring produce magazines. My dad, in his late 70s and after a stroke, wrote an interesting autobiography. My sister exerts a Madame Gram­marian influence on the family, which is good; I’m sure we’re all the better for it. Her kids are quick-witted, and natural-born storytellers.

Polly Mottonen is CATALYST’s longtime art director. She’s also my niece. Every month she makes this magazine look special. She wears a few other hats, too, including mom to Miles, 13 and Max, 10; any careful reader will have noted their names over the years, as we have quoted, photographed, and otherwise celebrated them.

She sent this email late one night recently:

Just got rid of our old couch. It has been through so much! Mark and I bought it maybe even before we were married. It’s been covered and recovered many times.

The kids and I got it out to the curb and spruced it up with a cover and some pillows. We had a nice starlit snuggle one last time on it and made shadow puppets and doughnuts of light with our arms looped over our heads as the light from the house shot past us onto the road. We giggled and laughed till it hurt. Miles pretended to be embarassed as cars drove by. 

Then we were quiet for a while and watched the trees blow and the stars twinkle, the crickets in unison and other more maverick bugs clicking out of time. We told stories of when they were babies on the couch and who fell off when and the things we had watched on tv over the years on that couch—9/11, Olympics in Utah and around the world, all the football and basketball games; how it used to be called “Daddy’s bed” because Mark slept on it when the kids were little.

Miles made a sign, Free Couch, Just take it! (For a good home)

We staged it with a solar light for easy reading from the road, complete with Mylar pinwheel.

Max decided to write something, too. Max’s note in big tired boy writing said,

Dear ?

I hope you lave are couch as much as we did. Please take Care of our couch.

Love Max Mottonen

We went inside. Not five minutes passed and there were three college boys at the door with the notes, light and pinwheel, thanking us for their new couch. Right now they are sitting on it in the middle of the road waiting for a buddy with a truck. Something tells me that couch has a lot more football games in its future.

New couch arrives tomorrow!

I wish more people got to have moms like Polly. Or kids like Max and Miles. Miles wrote this poem recently. I shouldn’t be surprised, because he was born wise. But it stuns me each time I read it. I am beginning to understand trees a bit better as I see the young ones grow up. I note with astonishment that I’m actually growing older. It’s an interesting position to be in—poised to leap from an eternal 30 to, soon, double that.

Where I’m From

I’m from basketball, from shoes and the bounce sound the ball makes

I’m from my bedroom where I have spent countless hours playing video games

I’m from the blue spruce that was bought to represent my age and growth as a person.

I’m from the peach tree that glimmered with bright red and orange colors.

I am from cookies and amazing friendships,

From Doug and Myrna

I’m from the jocks and geologists

From the “let’s go” and the “go fight wins.”

I’m from a nonreligious family that gives me a choice.

I’m from Bob and Bonnie’s branch, brats and cheese

From the finger my mother nearly lost, and the extra jobs my parents work to support my family.

Under my bed was a box of old legos with endless possibilities,

Memories of what my brother used to create.

Spending countless hours into the night building them.

I am from those moments.

Leaf-fall from the family tree.

—Miles Mottonen, 13

Greta Belanger deJong is the editor and publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.