This column will resume when the children are grown

SUSAN REIMER

September 23, 1993|By SUSAN REIMER

I was born to write a newspaper column. My grandmother, the now-dead but still larger-than-life Jessie Peterson, wrote a column for the Herald, a weekly in Sharpsburg, Pa., in the early 1960s. So you see, it's genetic.

Jessie Peterson, in her 70s at the time, would comment on who was visiting from out of town and who was in the hospital or what babies had been born, keeping her readers up to date with happenings in the small community of Aspinwall, outside Pittsburgh. An old family scrapbook contains some of the columns, now fragile and yellowing with age.

The column's appearance must have been haphazard, however, because it seems that each one begins with a paragraph explaining why last week's column did not appear, and a promise to do better.

"Somehow my column for last week was delayed in the mail. I surely hope it doesn't happen again, as so many of you were disappointed, or so it seemed by the number of phone calls, and so many approached me on the street. That is my explanation," began one of Jessie Peterson's columns.

"Wasn't it beautiful a week ago Sunday? The sun shining on the snow-covered trees and bushes was truly an artist's dream come true. Sure was lovely -- a winter fairyland. Sorry my column wasn't in last week, just couldn't get it there on time. Will try to see it doesn't happen again," read another.

"It is sort of difficult to get together a news column when one aches all over and vocal cords won't work. But that is over and here I go again. Christmas is in the air and do you know it won't be too long until bluebirds and spring are with us," Jessie Peterson wrote in the introduction to another column.

At The Sun, we also explain to our readers why their favorite columnist does not appear in his usual spot. And we tell them when he will return. The columnist is "on assignment" or "on vacation." And my favorite, the columnist is "away." His column will resume when he returns, we say in a small box at the bottom of the page.

Well, if it worked for Jessie Peterson, an imposing community figure until her death at 96, it can work for me. There are endless forces conspiring to keep me from my work. So I thought I would try out a few excuses here.

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. Her computer ate her work and she doesn't have time to do things once in this life, let alone twice. Her column will resume when she gets a minute to herself."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. You should see the basement. Legos cover the floor, there are naked Barbie dolls everywhere. The only way to tell the piles of wash from Barbie's clothes is that she dresses better than anyone else in the family. Ms. Reimer's column will resume when her children learn to pick up after themselves."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. The doctor called just after the kids left for school to say that Jessie's overnight strep test had come back positive. So she had to go get her at school and then pick up the amoxicillin at the drug store. And she couldn't find anybody at this last minute to stay home with Jessie, so she did. Her column will resume as soon as Jessie has been on an antibiotic for 24 hours and is no longer contagious."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. It is recycling day. Her column will resume after she has collected the newspapers she never has time to read and when she has separated the brown glass from the green glass."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. Grace, her sitter, broke her foot while playing one-on-one basketball with her son. Heaven knows that would not have happened had the columnist been at home with her children. She doesn't play basketball with them. Her column will resume when Grace's cast comes off."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. She got a letter from a woman who was 'appalled' at her parenting skills. And she got another letter from a woman who thinks she is out of touch with the realities of raising children. Her column will resume when her self-esteem improves."

"Susan Reimer's column will not appear today. She dreamt it was a cold, rainy day and she was at home, under the covers, sipping tea from a Royal Doulton bone china cup and reading a Martha Grimes mystery. Her column will resume when she wakes."

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