It leaves behind a lingering grace note about family matters that befits any era.
Until the day he died, I always called him "Daddy." He was Walter Harry Ebert, born in Urbana in 1902 of parents who had emmigrated from Germany. His father, Joseph, was a machinist working for the Peoria & Eastern Railway, known as the Big Four. Daddy would take me out to the Roundhouse on the north side of town to watch the big turntables turning steam engines around. In our kitchen, he always used a knife "your grandfather made from a single piece of steel."
A new movie is titled "The 500 Days of Summer." That's what it looked like on the last day of school, time reaching forward beyond all imagining. There was a heightened awareness in the room as the second hand crept toward our moment of freedom. We regarded the nuns as a discharged soldier does his superior officer. Here had existed a bond that would never be again. We didn't run screaming out the door. We sauntered. We had time. We were aware of a milestone having passed.
Some kids would go to second homes, or visit relatives, or summer camp. My friends and I would stay at home. We would have nothing planned. The lives of kids were not fast-tracked in those days. We would get together after breakfast and make desultory conversation, evaluate suggestions and maybe play softball, shoot baskets, go down somebody's basement, play cards, go to the Urbana Free Library for Miss Fiske's Summer Reading Club, rassle on the lawn, listen to the Cardinals, play with our dogs, or lay on our stomachs on the grass and read somebody's dad's copy of Confidential magazine. Somebody's mom was probably keeping an eye on us through a screen window.
Q. Neil Gaiman claims he holds the record for having sold the most screenplays to Hollywood that were never produced. I thought Harlan Ellison was the gold medalist in that event.