With a Little Help from My Kids

By David Chrisinger
11 May 20

Since the City of Chicago ordered its residents to shelter in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, I’ve been writing at a pretty nice makeshift setup in the living room of my family’s 1,200-square-foot condo surrounded by my kids’ toys and my wife’s seed starters. The light is nice, and I feel quite professorial surrounded by rich woodwork and all my many books. And even when my boys are playing Minecraft or fighting over whose turn it is to play with some toy, I can easily drown that out with the noise-canceling headphones I got for Christmas.  

Last week I sent 5,000 words (that I’m feeling pretty good about) to my agent to get his take on the progress I’ve made so far on the book. Before I hit send on any piece of writing that important, I like to read what I’ve written out loud, which can not only help me find typos, but can also help me smooth out any areas that may be grammatically correct but don’t have the right rhythm.

“The valley floor at the foot of Mt. Sammucro was pocked with shell holes and littered with abandoned rifles, empty cartridge belts, blood-crusted bandages, and dead GIs,” I read aloud to my wife in between sips of coffee. What do you think? Not a bad first sentence, right?

“The graves registration men, wearing their stiff leather gloves, hadn’t yet arrived to lift the hundreds of lifeless young men into white burial sacks. The smell of mud, sweat, burning metal, and blood saturated the air,” I continued, “Where the valley met the southern slope of the mountain, nestled in a series of terraces, was an obscure Italian village. Its narrow alleys were choked with chunks of plaster and broken beams, broken tiles and ancient stones. Behind a curtain of blue battle smoke, the choir loft inside San Pietro’s ghost-quiet Church of St. Michael was still hanging, but only just barely, above an altar concealed beneath rubble.  Above the altar, a headless Christ hung from His cross.”

I thought our kids were out of earshot. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing you want your nine- or six-year-old to be thinking about. Later that day, however, my middle child, Henry, came to my desk with a proud smile on his face. He said he had heard the beginning of my story and that he had drawn a picture that maybe I could put in the book. Or maybe I could just use it to “get the details right.”

With help like that, I have no doubt this book is going to be the best thing I’ve ever written—coronavirus or no coronavirus. 

P.S. I threw in a bonus picture of my mother-in-law, Carmell, Henry, my wife, Ashley, my oldest son, George, and little Stella at a pizza kitchen outside of Rome where we learned how to make our own pie the last night we were in Italy just before COVID-19 changed everything there. I doubt the story of that night will make it into the book, but maybe I can tell you more about it in a future newsletter. The pizzaiolo who taught us that night said I made bellissima pizza dough!

One response to “With a Little Help from My Kids”

  1. LuAnn Zieman says:

    As a former English teacher with much editing experience, I say your postscript needs some semi-colons to separate your listing in the first sentence. As your granny, I say this was a well-written, fun piece of writing.

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