Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Parent Watch

The last 24 have been filled with intense, interesting conversations about both parenting and pedagogy, as well as the relation between them. I'll probably be drafting something on the conjuncture this weekend.

In the meantime, inspired by cpratt's account of his parents' visit to his and Dan's home and my own feelings about our trip to stay with my parents in early December -- held in abeyance during the holiday madness, at least until the turkey tantrum -- I've decided to showcase another item from my archives.

I think this one came back with me from Maryland. But I can't be sure, since I didn't see it while I was sorting my things back there or when I was unpacking here. It just materialized on the floor of my office.

Thinking this might be something deeply significant? Sorry to lead you on. There's always the hope, however, that it will signify deeply in its very insignificance.

It's a non-Holiday UNICEF notecard my mother sent to me while I was at a Talented and Gifted (TAG) summer camp at Western Maryland College over the summer between 9th and 10th grade:
June 30, 1983
Dear Charlie,

I love your long netters.

Your biology achievement test results came and I couldn't resist opening them - 690. Not too bad, I must say.

Daddy talked to ACS types about the computer. As far as I can figure out there doesn't seem to be any advantage to the Rainbow, though they didn't seem to be aware of the interfacing device you were telling us about. There is a possibility that Columbus might be able to get us a 30% discount on the Rainbow. That's under investigation.

Your slides came. Them I won't look at.

Don't forget to save $7 for next Friday if you're taking Japanese.


If nothing else, my comments about the importance of family slide-viewing during our recent trip should resonate through this missive. What is regarded as most preciously personal here? My slides: "Them I won't look at." Test scores on the other hand are family property.

The thing is, I would have agreed with this distinction back then and am still inclined to agree with it still.

The fact that the camera I took those slides with, painstakingly saved for by me as a junior-high student, just went the way of the passenger pigeon makes reading this letter all the more poignant.

I should clarify two other points.

First, I can't believe I got a 690 on the Biology Achievement Test. I was so miserable in 9th Grade and had no interest or feel for science. The only thing I enjoyed at all was my alternative Science Fair project, in which I wrote a rudimentary computer program on a Commodore PET in our rudimentary computer lab. It was my first hands-on computer experience of consequence and remains an oasis of mild pleasure in a sea of painful memories.

Second, I'm so embarrassed to recall -- I hadn't repressed the fact, but avoid thinking about it -- that I actually advocated that my parents get a Digital Equipment Corporation Rainbow instead of an IBM PC. They had a VAX at the American Chemical Society, where my dad worked. That was part of the DEC's appeal for me. But the main factor in my preference was the Rainbow's sleeker lines. Yes, it at 400K DD disk drives instead of 360K DD disk drives, yet that's hardly an argument in its favor. There was almost no software of consequence for it, since Intel 8086 machines were incompatible with each other, unlike the older 8080 ones that ran CP/M. Windows was a distant ship on the horizon.

We got the IBM PC and I was happy until school started.
Tags: archive, autobiography, health

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