Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Baby book

My mom moved recently (for reasons I don’t really want to get into) and told my sisters to basically get any of their shit that was around her house a month or so ago. I’d already been through this in 1997 when my mom was preparing to rent out and ultimately sell the house where we grew up, and I’m pretty sure I even wrote about that experience here. Basically, at that point, I thought it was last call and I got what I thought were the last of my mementos, old books, and keepsakes from the piles of old stuff in the basement. Well, I was wrong, and my sister found amidst a bunch of garbage a rather interesting little item that she sent to me, and it arrived today.

The item in question is my baby book. I don’t know if this is a unique tradition to the Catholics or the people in the Midwest or particularly Better-Homes-and-Gardens-type parents, and I’m interested to hear if anyone else has one of these. Basically, it is a pre-printed scrapbook with various pages dedicated to clippings, photos, and tons of statistical information that new mothers love to gather on their baby, like when they first sat up, when they first held their bottle, when they first asked if Alan Greenspan is actually the head of a tribunal Masonic government that secretly runs the entire world via the monetary system, and so on. Mothers then write down all of these factoids and save birthday cards and kindergarden grades and locks of hair and so on. In a sense, it’s almost like a throwback to the entire blog concept, except it’s not on the web, and it’s not full of ads for vitamins.

So I guess my mom bought one of these books about 32 years ago, and I completely forgot about it. I do remember as a child that this book hid away in the buffet in the kitchen, along with commemorative candles from baptisms and bibles given to us at first communion and real silver silverware that never saw the light of day. My book was very late 60s looking, although I was born in 1971. I seem to remember Monica’s book being much more Gerald Ford-esque 1970s, and I don’t even remember Angie having a baby book. Angie was the Polaroid child; my parents had a crappy 126-camera that took slide film, which means there are about a dozen photos of me before the age of four. Monica was born when the 110 camera was the shit, and there are a fair number of shots of her in the family album. When Angie came around in 1976, my dad’s new toy was the Polaroid, and we have dozens and dozens of photos of Angie doing about everything. I think this novelty replaced the novelty of the baby book in the same way that email has replaced the novelty of writing a letter and sending it snail mail, so Angie’s childhood is in a sense much more documented, but it’s a much different experience. And now that everyone has a video camera the size of a book of matches, I doubt anyone but the most dedicated mother is still using the baby book concept. And I’m sure most of them have gone to the web.

Anyway, the book showed up today, and it smells like the inside of that buffet drawer, and like our old house in Michigan. The first thing I found that amazed me was… my own receipt! The bill from the hospital was in there; the Grand Forks Air Force hospital charged Sgt. and Mrs. Konrath a grand total of $10.50 for a seven-day stay, including food. Also included are my hospital tags that went around my foot (with a US military stamp on them); the slip that was on my hospital crib; the front page of the Grand Forks Herald from January 20, 1971; the newspaper announcement of my birth; some photos showing me and my mom and dad in the wood-grained trailer where they lived when my dad was in the service; and a chunk of my hair from my first haircut.

Aside from the initial birth stuff, there’s not a lot that would be interesting to anyone but me, unless you find the fact that I walked when I was nine and a half months old, and I used to call making the bed “changing the bed” when I was a kid. It’s still a very neat little discovery for someone who is as nostalgic about the past as I am. I’m glad my sister was able to liberate it for me.

Not much else is up, except that I’m busy as hell at work, and that makes the day go by faster, but it makes the time off seem much shorter. The Rite-Aid by my house can’t get a god damned thing done right, and every single prescription I bring there gets fucked up somehow and they either don’t have the stuff or they forget to fill it or the insurance company needs some super-secret approval and they don’t fucking call me and ask for it, even though they ask me every single time what my phone number is in case they have questions. The fact that I run into stuff like this in pretty much every avenue of my life makes me wonder how things ever happen at all. I wish this generation had a saying like “they can send a man to the moon, but they can’t _______.” But the thing is – they can’t send a man to the moon anymore. They can’t even install a public toilet in the largest city in the country, and I pay them $30,000 a year in taxes. You can buy a toilet at Home Depot for $100. Thiry grand times everyone else who has ever had to take a piss buys a lot of toilets.

Okay, gotta go see if Ray actually bought a region-free DVD player or not.