September 1, 2001

Boys on the Beach

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Fatherhood,Media — schroder @ 12:00 pm

At least twice a year, I led a large crew of teenagers to Myrtle Beach or St. Simons Island for a week’s vacation. I’ve often taken my two kids and their two buddies. Other times I’ve taken four 14-year-old girls or three 15-year-old boys. In April, I rented a large van equipped with a TV/VCR/CD, picked up five16-year-old boys and drove them around the coast a week.

When my children were younger, our vacations were a very important bonding time for us. When they moved with their mom to Charlotte seven years ago, this time became even more sacred. I knew while I could not be involved in their daily lives as much as I would’ve preferred, I had to make the most of the time we were given. When I had the opportunity, I made a point to clear my work and personal schedule and spend my energies focused on Sally and Thomas. I would usually plan elaborate vacations to keep them interested. But as they became teenagers and friend-focused, I reluctantly accepted that our family vacations must include their buddies.

At first this past month’s trip seemed to be going similarly. Sally was finishing a particularly tumultuous year: moving to Atlanta, then back to Charlotte to finish her senior year, back to Atlanta in March and then back to Charlotte to take a final summer school course. Her graduation ceremony was scheduled for the day before our vacation. We had all hoped friends could go to the beach with us, but it didn’t seem to be working out. At the last minute, Sally decided to stay home and celebrate with friends.

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Thomas surprised me with his decision. “I’ve seen my friends a lot this summer and I have a lot of summer reading to finish,” he said. “I think I will just go with you.” We rented movies, went to movies, cooked dinner, went out to dinner and just hung out all week. Each day, we wandered to the beach with our chairs, books, frisbee, football, cooler, CD player and his choice of music.

Somewhere near the fourth day, I had to laugh at how much my life had changed and yet, how much it had not. Thomas is 16. When I was 16, I was at the beach with my buddies, listening to much of the same music Thomas had selected, throwing a frisbee amidst the waves, sand and sun. Bob Dylan’s strange 35-year-old lyric kept ringing in my head and suddenly it made more sense to me: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

As the tide washed around our chairs, we had great talks about girlfriends, high school, college and family. He asked a lot of questions about the future of my business and I discussed how sometimes it is hard for an entrepreneur to work in a corporate environment. He admitted he hoped he could work for these newspapers one day.

When our week was coming to a close, I noticed sadness was beginning to emerge. I felt as if I had met a new best friend and he was going to leave soon.

“Thomas, I know it wasn’t planned this way, but I’ve really had a wonderful time just hanging out with you this week,” I said.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Yea, I might like to bring my girlfriend next time if her parents will let her. But in the future, I think we should also plan some trips with just you and me. Sometimes when I bring buddies, I don’t get to spend enough time with you.”

I know parents can spend a lifetime working for their families and never feel as if they are appreciated. While I await a similar moment with my daughter, I knew I had just received such a gift from my son. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Photo: Thomas and me as we are preparing for a trip to the beach

May 1, 2001

Quite a Spectacle

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Sometime in the past few months, I lost my prescription sunglasses. The lenses were only two years old, but I had nursed along the scratched and worn-down frames for more than 12 years. They weren’t pretty, but they were functional and much cheaper than new frames. I’ve looked everywhere for the glasses and even accused my fashion-conscious kids and staff members of hiding them until I broke down and bought a new pair designed in the past decade, but no one would admit to it.

As I looked over the rows of new spectacles at the store, I suddenly remembered the last time I lost a set of eyeglasses. At that time, I was married and my wife, Callender, and I were living in Greenville, SC. For more than nine months we had been, as they say, expecting. Our daughter Sally had been “due” on a full moon in early October, but we were still “expecting” her three weeks later. In fact, we were starting to get down-right “demanding.” We had tried everything to encourage her along: long walks, driving continually over old railroad tracks, riding up and down elevators, taking taxis, etc. Finally, we decided to risk an out of town trip. So we got in our old Datsun B210 “Honey Bee” car, which occasionally responded to manual shifting, and took our dog for a trip to Asheville, NC, an hour away.

It was a beautiful afternoon as we threw the tennis ball to our dog alongside the French Broad River somewhere beside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then, suddenly, Callender grabbed my arm. “It’s time,” she said. We ran back to the car, but the dog did not want to get in. It was too nice of a day, I suppose. She took off running. I chased after her, tackled her and carried her back to the car. Somewhere in that effort, my old, classic style, genuine gold, intricately-etched rimless spectacles – with lots of scratches and a chip or two in the lenses from years of abuse – had fallen into the thick layer of new leaves on this riverside path.

I tossed the dog in the back seat, assured Callender I’d be right back and began frantically digging around. The dog was barking, Callender was honking the horn and I was frantically digging around sticks and leaves for glasses I needed to be able to drive back down the mountain to the emergency room. I finally gave up, jumped in the front seat, turned on the engine, backed the car up, pushed the clutch in to shift into first. The gear shift wasn’t moving. I tried, Callender tried, I think the dog even tried to shove that gear out of reverse, but no such luck. So we backed down a road, all of us screaming or barking until finally, the old car lurched and the gear shift popped into neutral. As we left the park, I dropped a note at the ranger station about my lost spectacles.

We raced to the hospital an hour away, but the labor pains stopped. A few days later, Sally was born. I called the Asheville park service lost and found for weeks, but never found my glasses. I reluctantly ordered a new pair.

Five years later, after we had moved to Charlotte, NC, Callender was making her weekly rounds at local antique shops when she stopped by the register and looked at a display case. Inside were some sets of old glasses. One was very familiar: gold, etched, chipped, bent. She asked the storeowner where she bought them. “From some dealer who comes through occasionally with odd items,” she said. Callender brought them home and presented them to me.

I put them on and I could see near-perfectly through the chips and scratches. I still have them displayed in bookcase at home. Say, I wonder if I could take them to the optician, fit some dark lenses on them and not have to order …

December 1, 2000

Election Returns

Filed under: Atlanta,Family — schroder @ 12:00 pm

I’ve always enjoyed staying up late to watch election results on television. This year was no different. About 3:30 in the morning my telephone rang. It was my friend Charles, who enjoys the process as much as I do. He and I talked for nearly an hour before we agreed the presidential race was not going to be decided anytime soon.

The next morning I spoke to a civic group. After I recounted three nonpolitical humorous stories from my youth, my audience spent 40 minutes quizzing me about the media and the election. Everyone had an opinion and each took time to express it.

The next day, I traveled to Charlotte. I began the day on a MARTA bus. Despite a sign saying, “Please do not talk to the driver,” several passengers in the front of the bus carried on a lively discussion with the driver about the latest developments in “The Election Too Close to Call.”

When I boarded a MARTA train that afternoon, I walked into a car full of conversation. Passengers of different ethnic and socio-economic background were engaged in serious and humorous discussions about the voters in Florida. On any other day, these same people would have sat silently in their seats, exchanging no words between each other until one exited.

At the airport, great crowds of travelers were huddled in semicircles in front of televisions. People hurrying from other flights would stop and ask about the recount and several strangers would turn to give concise updates. Other passengers, who would normally have sat in silence waiting to board the flight, were engaged in conversation about intricacies of ballot re-counting and the merits of electronic voting.

The short flight to Charlotte seemed all the more brief when a young schoolteacher took the seat next to me and talked about her first-grade students spending the week debating the Electoral College and Constitution.
When I arrived in Charlotte, Sally, who turned 18 just days before the election, talked excitedly for an hour about her first voting experience and about which votes should be recounted.

Elections have traditionally divided us along party lines so it takes statesmanlike qualities for the winners to unite our country afterwards. Suddenly in this age of instant gratification, when we have grown used to watching returns on Web sites and 24-hour news channels, we have been transported back to the 19th century in America, when the country would not find out the winner for weeks after the vote was collected.

In so doing, the deadlock has forced Americans to return to other forgotten traditions. Instead of proceeding in silence next to our fellow citizens, we are now sparked into engaging them in lively debate.

On the Saturday after the election, while Florida election officials were holding ballots above their heads to determine if the computer punch-outs that we now know are called “chads” were partially or fully voted, Sally and I were selecting a new puppy for our household. We quickly voted for a cute male of apparent mixed chow and retriever lineage.

When it came time to name him, I suggested “Chad” in honor of the new word of the day that would no doubt dominate discussion in the next few weeks. She had her own ideas and, as of press time, there is no final decision. But one thing for sure, we will be engaged in lots of discussion on this and other matters of national importance in the weeks to come. And I for one think it is a good thing.

November 1, 2000

Tagging Along

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Life Stories — schroder @ 12:00 pm

A few years ago, after my children and I completed an inspiring tour of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C., we were returning to our prime parking spot right outside the building when my daughter noticed that my license tag was gone. I was mad. Here we were learning about our sophisticated law enforcement while at that very moment, a major crime went unnoticed.

My son, having been duly impressed by the G-Men on the tour, suggested I report it to the FBI. The security desk radioed upstairs and soon we were leading three or four federal agents down the steps of the J. Edgar Hoover building toward our car.

“This section of the street is considered federal property,” one G-Man was telling us. “If they stole it from here, then you’ll have the full authority of the FBI behind you.”

My anger at being a victim suddenly turned to delight as I envisioned some poor unsuspecting dude surrounded by a dozen G-Men yelling: “FBI – Freeze! Give us that Georgia tag back.”

When we walked up to my car, one of the men started shaking his head.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “But you are parked 20 feet outside our jurisdiction. We’ll have to call in the D.C. Police on this one. If you had just parked a few spaces down, we could have helped you.”

Nearly 45 minutes later a cop pulled up, took a few notes before his radio cackled with reports of an armed robbery at a nearby Wendy’s.”

He scribbled something on a scrap piece of paper and handed it to me. “I’ve got to run. Here’s your incident report number. I’ll write up your incident in a few days and you can request a copy.”

Back in Atlanta, I went to the county tag office, but they refused me a new one, demanding to see my police report. Calls to the D.C. police found my incident number had not been turned in yet.

As I stared into my computer screen at work, I searched for a solution. I then did what any good designer would do: I designed my own exact replacement, replete with year and month, the county name and even positioned the state peach behind my number. Then in a burst of honesty, instead of merely typing the state name at the top, I wrote: “Tag Stolen from Georgia.” My coworkers were impressed. So, it seemed, were the police.

Soon, I was being pulled over all over town. Policemen would walk up to my window, scratch their heads and inevitably begin with, “Sir, where in the world did you get that tag?”

“I designed it myself, on my computer,” I would say.

I would then tell my story about taking my kids to visit the FBI and how the G-Men had to call the D.C. policeman, who was called to an armed robbery … yada, yada.

Some would cut me off with a roll of their eyes and wave me on while others expressed great admiration for my handiwork. One asked about my computer software, and how I scanned the peach. Once I was pulled over twice on the same night on Piedmont Road.

Realizing I was spending more and more time on the side of the road meeting Atlanta’s finest, I located one clerk in the D.C. police department who took sympathy on my sudden popularity. She promised to harass the original cop until he got his paperwork in. When that proved fruitless, she typed the report herself and faxed it to me.

Within hours, I was fastening on a new – albeit more boring – state tag on my car. I haven’t seen any blue lights in my mirror since. Next time I go to D.C., I’ll know to park directly in front of the FBI.

October 1, 2000

Our Date with Miss Universe

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood,Media — schroder @ 2:00 pm

A few weeks ago, my editor forwarded an e-mail from a New York public relations firm asking if we’d interview Miss Universe 1999 when she was in town for a “hair show.” Trying not to act too eager, I counted to two before running to Jan’s office to volunteer.. She looked at me rather skeptically, as an editor should, wondering if I was the best reporter to cover this important breaking story.

“What experience do you have in matters of beauty, hair color and makeup that might make you qualified for this assignment?” she asked..

“Um,” I stammered. “I used to have to blow-dry my long hair in high school, I once put makeup over a pimple and I look at the covers of beauty magazines when I’m in the grocery checkout lines.”

She wasn’t impressed.

“I’m also your boss,” I suggested with a smile.

As the day approached and as I read more about Mpule Kwelagobe, I grew a little nervous. She had been crowned Miss Botswana a few months out of high school and a few months later crowned Miss Universe, and had since traveled to more than a dozen countries; I realized I wasn’t even exactly sure where in Africa Botswana was. I slinked back into Jan’s office.

“I’m having trouble coming up with questions to ask Miss Universe. What if she doesn’t speak much English? I don’t even know what language they speak in Botswana,” I said.

She scribbled a few questions on a pad and dismissed me, saying, “You’d better not disappoint me, Schroder!”

Me_and_miss_universejpg_2

My son, Thomas, was going to be in town that day, so I asked him if he would like to accompany me and ask a few questions. “Maybe you should leave this to me, Pop,” he said. “After all, I am only four years younger than her. You are old enough to be her …”

“Her photographer,” I said. “That’s it. You ask her questions and I’ll take photographs.”

As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. Mpule spoke fluent English with a charming British accent. Botswana is the second-richest country in Africa and a former British colony, and she had excelled in the British-style schools. Mpule was a live wire and loved to talk.

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She talked about how she had postponed attending the University of South Africa on an engineering scholarship to be the first representative from her country ever to enter the Miss Universe pageant. She told us about the infighting at the pageants, the host newspaper in Trinidad that said she would never win, about how she was the first winner to ever walk away with a commercial contract such as hers with Clairol. She is most passionate about the scourge of AIDS, which affects 1 out of 5 young people on her continent, and how she hopes to fight it.

When she left Botswana for the pageant in May 1999, 10 people saw her off at the airport. When she returned, 250,000 people – nearly her entire country – were at the stadium to cheer her. “More people than turned out to see Bill Clinton or Pope John Paul or Nelson Mandela,” she said with pride. Recently, the political parties in her country have been asking her to run for office, but she has put them off.

“I want to return to college in a couple of years and then, perhaps when I turn 25 or 30, I will run for president of my country. You will have to come and visit my country then,” she said.

Thomas looked at me, no doubt hoping I would book travel reservations on the spot.

“You’ve got my vote,” I told her. Thomas and I walked away with photos, autographs and a heightened respect for Botswana. As if she hasn’t won enough awards, Mpule has earned a permanent spot on Thomas’s personal Web site.

Photos: Left, Chris with Miss Universe, Mpule Kwelagobe, and Thomas with her, right. I think she’s happier with Thomas … what do you think?

April 1, 1999

Dearly Beloved

Filed under: Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 12:00 pm

This month I would be celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary, except for the minor fact that my marriage ended seven years ago. There was a period when I would have predicted this milestone would represent a painful speedbump in the road of life. Instead, I’ll probably pass the day much like any other.

When I first started dating again I was sure that I had a large scarlet “D” branded on my forehead. Over time, I realized I was part of a growing majority of marital refugees.

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In grade school, I could count on one hand the number of kids whose parents were divorced. Times have changed. Recently, a young employee in my company recalled how in his group of high school friends, he was one of only two whose parents were still together.

It is all too easy for our moral guardians to argue that society is breaking down because the traditional family units are disintegrating. But that argument loses its charge when you realize many of the leaders of the conservative movement have a family breakup in their pasts. I think we are in the midst of a time of redefinition of what “family” means. Much like we are becoming a global economic society, we are becoming a global blended family and the results don’t have to be devastating.

I suppose the people you worry about the most in this blending trend are the kids. They are the passengers on their parents’ unpredictable journey of change. Frankly, I think we are not giving the next generation enough credit. In many cases, they have adapted to this societal shift better than the adults. I’ve found that if the parents remain stable and focus on giving their children love, the children are nurtured in ways the older generations may not understand.

My ex-wife Callender remarried and moved to Charlotte nearly five years ago and even though I don’t see my children as much as if they lived in my house, when I do have them here, I focus totally on them. A friend says I spend more time with my children than do many of the fathers in intact families. God knows, I’d love to believe that.

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Time has allowed Callender and me to be friends again while our relationship consists of discussing what’s best for our children. I wish her the best with her husband Jim because he is a good man and if their marriage is stable, our children will be much stronger.

Even though it is sometimes awkward for me to stand in their kitchen and talk casually while our kids get ready to go off for a weekend with me, I remind myself that those images of us together are important for our children to record in their memory banks.

A couple of months ago, I drove to Charlotte to watch my son’s basketball game. He was playing against his step-brother Mark’s team. I sat in the bleachers with Callender, my daughter Sally, her step-sister Leigh and Jim’s ex-wife, Jane. Jim hurried in from the airport during the second quarter and took a seat between Jane and Callender. I thought for a moment how I was sort of an outsider to this new model of a blended family.

But then I looked across the gym floor at my son Thomas. He was on the bench sitting with his buddies, watching his step-brother going up for a shot. He then looked over toward us and studied the six of us sitting together in the bleachers. A gentle smile came across his face.

Then it hit me. This is my son’s family. And we were all together for the first time.

Photos: Thomas Schroder playing basketball in high school

December 1, 1998

Sweet Sixteen

Filed under: Family — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Every once in a while, a reader will ask about my daughter Sally. For three years she wrote a monthly column for these newspapers called “Teens” and they miss catching up on her. Her column took us on a journey back into time, looking through the eyes of a young girl.

Sally_and_jessie

We learned about her obsession for a 16-year-old rock star from Australia and about leaving temporary dye in her hair too long and turning it strange colors. She wrote about how she would design her room if her mother would let her, about wearing wide-leg jeans and about what really goes on at those teen parties. She had a wicked, dry sense of humor.

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Sally had years ago given up any interest in playing sports, even though she could hit any ball thrown in her direction. Four years ago, she had a brief but brilliant career as an artist. Before she turned in her paintbrushes, she painted two canvasses that still hang in my living room – and designed the logo for our first paper, Atlanta 30306.

So last year when she said she wanted to retire from the column-writing business, I was disappointed but not too surprised.

Those who are close to Sally know one thing: she wants to be in control. This probably dates to her lengthy stay in the womb. She was due to be born during the full moon in October, but she wasn’t born until the full moon in November. That waiting period must have driven her crazy and ever since, she’s been in a hurry to grow up and hell-bent to control her environment.

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Without her permission, family members in her presence are not allowed to sing the words to a song on the radio, chew too loudly, wear a cap in a restaurant or participate in a conversation she’s not privy to. She’s been subject to many of the ups and downs of girls her age: grade fluctuation, friend obsession and battles with her parents. She is engaged in a constant battle now with her mother, which I remind them both is common for this age.

But in the past year, I’ve noticed a change. She has gained enough confidence to begin wearing shorts or skirts. The baggy sweaters have given way to better fitting ones. She spends a few minutes applying makeup before we go out. She looks beautiful, has one of the most captivating smiles I’ve seen and is showing it a little more each day.

Although she attends a magnet school for the arts, she resists being forced to produce art. But recently, she picked up a birdhouse at home and painted a beautiful landscape on one side. And I’m hoping she’ll write a column again one day.

She just turned 16 and I’m sure the battles with her mom will cease in another year or two. Sally admits she may one day name her first daughter after her. They will probably end up best friends.

I like taking her out to dinner and hearing about what goes on in her life. She has learned to trust me with the truth. I love it when we exchange, “I love you’s.”

She has a few hurdles yet to go in life, including dealing with those boyfriends. Wherever Sally ends up, I know she will get there according to her own road map and at her own speed. I pretend to be driving but I’m just happy to be along for the ride. I just have to remember not to make a noise when I chew or sing. But she’s worth it.

Photos: Sally Schroder with next door neighbor, Jessie Perlik, hitting the ball in our Charlotte backyard, with me and Thomas at Christmas in Atlanta

November 1, 1998

Moving Van

Filed under: Family — schroder @ 12:00 pm

When I was born a few years ago, the nurse wrapped me in a blanket and handed me to my mother, who was delighted to see me – even though my arrival had not exactly been planned. She had already given birth to four children, beginning 17 years earlier. As she cuddled me, she told herself that her only regret was that she was already past 40 and would probably not live long enough to see my children.

But 40 years later, she is still on the go. She has never been one to stand still. As a child, her parents moved from Atlanta to Miami and back to Atlanta, where they lived in several neighborhoods, including Poncey-Highland and Garden Hills. When my Dad was getting ready to go overseas in World War II, she and her two daughters joined him in his training camp in Tennessee. During his absence, he bought a house on Atwood Road in Garden Hills that he didn’t see until his return from the Philippines.

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Seven years later, they moved to Sandy Springs. Seven years later, they moved to Buckhead. Seven years later, they built a new house in their side yard. We always kidded Mom about having her own version of the seven-year itch. At the new house, my father put his foot down. “You’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box,” he promised.

After a few years, Mom started talking about buying a house at the beach. But Dad was against the idea. “We can’t afford it,” was his standard response. They settled on building a retirement home in what was then a new mountain development north of Atlanta called Big Canoe. After a few years (I think it was seven, to be exact), my mother started saying it was time to sell the mountain house and get a beach house. Dad’s response: “We can’t afford it.”

Somewhere in the 1970s, when CB radios were the rage and drivers on the highway were talking in code to truckers, looking for highway patrol “bears,” Mom bought a new station wagon that had a CB installed. Every driver with a CB had to have a “handle” or a code name to use on the highway so the patrol couldn’t prove it was you alerting other drivers to a “bear with his ears up (radar).” Someone in my family suggested that Mom, whose name is Van, adopt the appropriate handle of “Moving Van.” She did.

In the late ’80s, my parents sold the mountain house and began renting houses at the beach. Mom kept lobbying everyone in the family that it was time to make an investment in a beach house. But Dad wasn’t buying. “We still can’t afford it,” he’d say. After Dad died in 1994, Mom checked the financial picture and announced to the family, “Now we can afford it.” I helped her find a house at the beach.

A few days ago, my mother celebrated her 82rd birthday. She hasn’t slowed down a beat. She drives with friends to the mountains or jumps in her car by herself and heads to the beach. She has moved into her second Buckhead condo in as many years. And she has done more than just see my kids. She has been a constant, prodding and supportive voice in their lives and those of her many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The rest of us only marvel at her energy and drive. We hope we can be half as mobile when we’re 82.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Keep on movin’.

May 1, 1998

Family Films

Filed under: Family — schroder @ 12:00 pm

Right after I was born, my father bought an 8mm movie camera. I never knew if his primary motivation for the purchase was for his work as a gastroenterologist at Emory or to record his idyllic family lifestyle out in what we then called “the country” and now call “Sandy Springs.”

Certainly, viewing the movies provided no answer to the question. Halfway through a film of my sisters going off to a prom or my brothers opening up Christmas presents, the image suddenly would switch to a tightly cropped shot of the esophagus or stomach lining of one of his patients. In 1966, Raquel Welch starred in the movie “Fantastic Voyage,” about a medical team that was shrunk and inserted inside a patient’s body. My friends were fascinated, but I felt like I had already seen it.

Dad_and_thomas

When I was 10 and 11, I would host “movie nights” for my family, setting up a theater in our basement and playing the old newsreels. Eventually, the films were tossed in an old box in my dad’s tool room, left there to languish for a couple of decades.

One night, near the end of his life, Dad walked into my brother Jack’s house for dinner, shoved the box toward him and said, “Here, you’ll know what to do with these.” And he did.

This past Christmas, Jack gave each of us a videotape.

The films had been edited and enhanced with two new dimensions. He had the images set to appropriate music – ranging from the wistful sounds of “Titanic” and “Gone with the Wind” to ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll classics – and provided a modest level of voice-over introductions.

During the holidays, I watched the film with my two teenage children, who are somewhat disconnected from my side of the family because they now live in Charlotte, N.C., with my ex-wife. I usually struggle to find activities on our weekends that will interest all three of us. But they were transfixed. Somewhere between the then-rare color footage of my parents’ 1939 wedding, the scenes of me carrying cats and footballs as a toddler and awkward moments of my sisters greeting their dates, my kids grasped a better understanding of who are all these people who gather at our overwhelmingly large family parties.

Most amazing to us all was the life we lived in the ridges overlooking the Chattahoochee River in the 1950s. Dad spent hours each week driving the children to school and then going to work at Emory University. He loved the long commute down Riverside Drive and Johnson’s Ferry – seeing only one or two houses before he got to Roswell Road. As the family grew older, he reluctantly agreed to move us back into Buckhead. But we all knew how much he loved his little Eden, now covered with modern homes in a development called North Harbor in Sandy Springs.

Watching the videotape, the kids were getting antsy as it wound on through beach trips, traditional Thanksgiving Day walks and the introductions of my brothers’ wives, but a little treasure awaited them at the end. Before he had put the movie camera up on a shelf for the last time, Dad arranged for the recording of one last scene.

My children and I watched as Dad lifted a glass of champagne and offered a welcoming kiss to a woman who would become my wife – and a few years later, their mother. They fell silent, but I could tell that Dad’s decades-long filmmaking hobby had, in just a couple of seconds, recorded a moment that will help them feel a part of a family, no matter how distant we may seem.

Photo: My father, Jack Spalding Schroder, with my son, Thomas Spalding Schroder

January 3, 1998

Signs of the Times

Filed under: Atlanta,Family,Fatherhood — schroder @ 12:00 pm

As children grow up, a parent tries to introduce them to all kinds of life’s experiences. You also try to plant in their minds a series of visual and emotional moments, which they can recall and replay in those times when you cannot be with them.

A parent takes his children fishing or camping or perhaps takes them on trips to see other cities or countries. And when that parent is a father, he takes his children to sporting events.

In Atlanta, we’ve been graced with lots of opportunities to see great sporting events, from championship college football teams, to NCAA basketball tournaments to one of the greatest events in the world, the Olympics. But in America, where sports are often elevated to a spiritual domain, the highest church of all would have to be to take your kids to a World Series baseball game.

A few years ago, when the Braves were in their second World Series against Toronto, I was negotiating a business deal. When my contact at this corporation mentioned that she could throw in two field-level tickets to the Seventh Game, the deal was done. In the high church of World Series, the Seventh Game is akin to going to a Sunday service with the Pope.

I discussed the logistics with my daughter and secured her blessing on allowing me to take my son to The Game. You can imagine my heartbreak when the Braves lost the series in the sixth game, voiding the tickets I had so excitedly held.

A few years later, when the Braves were opening the World Series on a Saturday night against the Yankees, I decided to be a little more proactive. I took both of my kids down to the stadium, determined to beg, borrow or scalp tickets to get in. My son was happy to give it a shot. My daughter was willing to try to get in the game, but she was humiliated when I presented her with what I thought was a clever, full-proof scheme.

Braves_game

I showed her three simple signs I made on my computer and told her we were each to hold one in sequence. My daughter’s read, “Never been,” my son’s sign read, “Wanna go,” and mine was a simple plea: “Need three.” I positioned my kids near one of the entrance ramps to the stadium and we stood for nearly an hour and a half. Crowds of people pointed at us, laughed at us and consoled my daughter, who covered her face in embarrassment while reluctantly holding the sign aloft under my orders. We stuck around even after the game started, hoping something would loosen up by the second inning, it was all for naught We never even attracted the attention of a TV camera.

We finally decided to go where we knew there would be hundreds of Braves fans who didn’t have tickets, either. We grabbed a cab and headed to the Varsity on North Avenue where we got front-row seats in one of the TV rooms. Munching on delicious Varsity fare, we had a great time and took a cab home satisfied that we, and the Braves, did our best.

Recently I read about major league baseball raising its World Series ticket prices to astronomical heights, far out of the range of a bottom-feeder like me. So this year, should the Braves go all the way, I’ll probably prepare a new sign for my home or office: “Gone Fishin’.”

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