Our job as children growing up is to accept and reject. Accept our parents for who they are. Reject some of their ways. Be close if possible in loyalty, but move away, perhaps physically great distances if necessary. Find our own ways better for us. These are my thoughts on reading I Was a Child by Bruce Erik Kaplan, a cartoonist for The New Yorker as well as a television writer and producer.
Kaplan and I are by no means twins, as his ways are not mine, but we definitely shared some experiences. In his cleverly illustrated memoir, he briefly recounts moments that send me back to my own childhood. And I think Kaplan might agree that we never wholly leave childhood, as we are still children as long as we have parents or even remember our parents.
I was particularly struck by all the useless things in his parents' house, all the broken things that remained in place. He tells about a box outside his parents' door for the milk delivery. Decades after milk was no longer delivered, it was still there. He also tells about a console holding a nonfunctioning record player and old never-played records. I am not the only child to have noticed such things! He also tells about closet doors that won't close, and I feel a sudden urgency to get a door fixed.
I can imagine some readers will believe that Kaplan is disloyal for shining a light on his parents' failings. They might also argue against almost any revealing childhood memoir. For this reason and because I Was a Child is very entertaining and quick to read, I think it would be a great choice for some book discussion groups.
Kaplan, Bruce Erik. I Was a Child. Blue Rider Press, 2015. 193p. ISBN 9780399169519.