Thursday, November 1, 2018

Radio and Memories

Susan Jordan, This American Life
Radio and Memories

Even on the radio I could tell: She was a nice person.

I recently listened to the podcast This American Life where they re-aired a piece originally from 2001—the theme was A Return to Childhood, where Alex Blumberg went in search of his old babysitter, Susan Jordan, in “Ich... Bin... Ein... Mophead.”

It was as much about how we remember and misremember than about how Alex eventually tracked down Susan using a private investigator.

--That was 17 years ago. She must be about my age or a little younger.

I could tell just by the sound of her voice that she was a nice person. It wasn’t said but I could tell as much: Alex had been secretly in love with his fearless babysitter. She was his champion. She would have beaten up a motorcyclist to defend her young charge, whom she felt a bit sorry for. Alex, she hesitated to mention, was a bit bookish and obsessed with stuff beyond his years. She was compelled to “play” with Alex and his sister.

But Susan had her own story, as we learn. Because of family dysfunction she’d moved out of her house or—and it was not clarified—her family had left her. She was a freshman in college, trying to make it on her own on a babysitter salary. The kids she watched came to be stand-ins for her younger siblings whom she missed.

At the end of the call, at the end of the piece she finally confessed. She was afraid Alex had called her because of something she’d done or said. She remembered that time period as not one of her best. She was lost, abandoned, struggling. She was afraid somehow she had messed him up.

1) How sweet and
2) How many times have I thought the same thing. –What a horrible person I was (the unsaid thought is that I still am) The thoughtless, horrible things I’ve said to others, That smug, self-righteous persona I give off=all this will come home to roost someday.

The whole piece is immersed in humanity. In longing. Our desires to change and go back, readjust the dial of memory. It was melancholy and immutable. Frozen in time.

Susan of the 70s, a listening ear to young Alex, Susan of the grocery store, a young newlywed, still the older woman to Alex, and then years later, where the age gap makes them more or less peers—they still cannot bridge the difference. His life went one way and hers another. We cannot plot the course of our lives on a vertical and horizontal graph.

This was a magnificent piece of journalism reflecting memories and our own perceptions of reality.
Image result for alex blumberg journalist
Alex Blumberg, as an adult
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