Amy Wimmer Schwarb

Essays

  • Going Public

    We were hoping to claim a seat at Irvington Community, a charter school recommended by friends in our quest to find the perfect kindergarten. That jumbo spreadsheet projected on the screen in the gym told us everything we needed to know about our chances.

    On it glowed the school’s grade levels, kindergarten through 12, with a few green cells stretching out below, indicating available seats, and long ribbons of white ones, representing waiting-list spots. A smattering of boxes shaded yellow—deceivingly, the color of sunshine—denoted seats that would probably become available, but perhaps not.

    Just what I’m looking for, I thought. More limbo.

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  • Diners Education

    My dad tells a lot of stories, many of them true. But if this tale about the burger joint he ran with his Uncle Fat (real name: Marion) is to be believed, Indiana just might have invented the double drive-thru—though it took Hoosiers some time to get used to it.

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  • The Pearl Next Door

    I placed the baby in her stroller and a backup bottle in the cup holder; grabbed my cell phone, sunglasses, and a baseball cap; stuffed the dog’s treat into my pocket and attached the leash to his collar; and then stepped outside my back door and pulled it closed behind me.

    Instantly, I knew. And from the corner of my eye, I could tell that someone else did, too. I spun around to meet the eyes of my new neighbor.

    "Lock yourself out?" he asked.

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  • 'B' is for Basketball

    The little girl at center court had no game. She just stood there, stoic, watching as the boys raced past, dribbling and tripping and, on occasion, pushing. She looked as if she had been crossing the street when the light changed, and had decided that the safest place to be was right where she was, between the zooming lanes of traffic, holding her breath and waiting for the "Walk" sign.

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  • Copper and Robbers

    They were the happy color of mint chocolate chip ice cream, a fabulous shade of kiwi green that had been earned, not just acquired. Through hard decades of biting, sleety winters and humid, sun-pierced summers, the original reddish-gold shine of the copper gutters on my 1926 Tudor home had patina’d to a color somewhere north of chartreuse and south of parsley. In Irvington, a far-eastside historic neighborhood where pride is high, those gutters were a reminder that it really is possible to become more beautiful with age.

    And then, one day this summer, they were gone

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  • We Were the Salsberys

    Every summer since 1944, my family has gathered for a reunion much like any other you might find on a summer afternoon in rural Indiana. We sip iced tea, catch up with cousins, and record our milestones.

    There is always a lingering sense that what we’re doing can’t go on forever $mdash; but then there is always next year. This is the story of the year there almost wasn’t.

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  • The Lost Recipe

    Once, on the stainless-steel countertop of her bakery, my mother tried to teach me how to bake a pie. She didn't hold my attention long.

    Like a lot of girls who long to be something their mothers are not, I never had much patience for things she did better than I, like singing harmony, growing a garden and shopping with coupons.

    Which explains why, despite my genes and my upbringing, I can't bake a pie.

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  • In the Shadow of a Giant

    My dad used to play barnyard basketball with James Dean. It’s hard to drop that factoid into conversation without sounding as if I’m trying to brag— about my Hoosier credentials, I suppose.

    There’s something inherently Hoosier about a link to Dean’s hometown of Fairmount, the self-proclaimed Birthplace of Cool. My older brothers got to grow up there; by the time I came along, my family had moved to Huntington County, the decidedly less cool Hometown of Dan Quayle. But bragging intentions aside, I like my dad’s story because it places him and Dean in a place I associate with them—Grant County, 1947—and because it grounds Jimmie Dean, makes him less of a two-dimensional smirking poster boy.

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