Weekly Wrap: The Murders We Remember

by Susan Henderson on November 30, 2007

I’m not quite sure of the meaning in this story I’m about to tell you. But back in third grade or so, when I was the girl “least likely to comb her hair,” another classmate asked me to sign a petition to save a murderer from the death penalty.

The murderer was Gary Gilmore, and the petition said that he absolutely must not be killed, etc., etc. I’ve always been a skimmer. I signed immediately.

That I’d never heard of this guy didn’t matter. I liked the idea of standing up for something. All day, we chanted “Save Gary!” And we bullied people into signing the petition and downright hated them if they didn’t sign at all.

Between the chanting and the tattlers, we were called to the principal’s office, where we were told not to bully, etc., etc. (You can skim when you’re listening, too.) And there, we also found out that this guy, Gary, whose name we’d been chanting all day, had actually been executed weeks earlier.

I didn’t even know who he was or what he had done to get on Death Row.


Before I get to my Top 5 answer, I just want to acknowledge the roller coaster this week has been – going from your stories of murder to fond (and not so fond) memories of parents to feeling the impact of friends struggling with scary things. I didn’t intend to send everyone up and down, and I’m sorry about that. But if I’m going to ride a roller coaster with anyone, I’m glad it’s you.


On to the Top 5. First, I want to thank the oh-so-lovely Chuck Collins for being here to play with us. I have been rooting for Chuck for many years now, and I hope he gets the notice he deserves for his fine storytelling and huge heart.

So, Chuck asked everyone to name their 5 fondest memories with their folks. Here’s my answer:

Like many of you, I had trouble coming up with 5 distinct memories, but in my case, it wasn’t because there were not many to pick from. It’s just that, when I thought about growing up in my family, I realized something that has turned out to be very important to me. There were not “big moments” and “big memories,” so much as there were some key things I experienced consistently and in quiet ways. I think what my family did well, and what I try to remember not only with raising kids but also with being married and being a friend – is it’s not the stand-out moments that sustain a relationship but what you get on average days.

So instead of telling a story of me and my Dad earning a feather for singing together at an Indian Princess’s meeting, I’ll tell you that every single day he was dutiful and completely self-sufficient. What did this mean to me? It meant I knew that whenever I was with my father – whether we were camping in the rain or ice fishing or repelling or waiting out a power outage, I was always perfectly safe. He could handle any situation, and I could be the kid.

And my mother, instead of telling you about the matching bracelets we got after her best friend died, I’d like to say that the greatest gift she gave me was the feeling of being loved. Every stage I went through with hair styles and melodramatic writing and the grand and uniformed pronouncements I had about the world, she was just genuinely interested and encouraged me to express my style and my opinions. I never felt judged or small. I felt enjoyed and free.

This is probably my favorite photo ever. It’s my mom, last week, over Thanksgiving break, and Bach-Boy hiding his face in her arms because he doesn’t want his picture taken. And what’s so great about this picture is you can see my kids are getting that same thing from my mom that she gave to me.


Thanks to all of you for being here this week. I’d like to link two stories that got buried in the comments section: this story by Gail Siegel, and this one by Pia Ehrhardt (if the link doesn’t take you straight there, look up Pia in the contributors section and then click on October). Finally, thanks to everyone who linked to LitPark: The Publishing Spot, Wish It Were Fiction, and Aimeepalooza.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

lance_reynald November 30, 2007 at 2:02 am

ah, the rebel yell, sweetest nostalgia.

no one in the world I’d rather rollercoaster with.

always fearless and laughing with you.



robinslick November 30, 2007 at 10:27 am

You tell the best stories.

And what did I see on Chuck’s PM page? That he has a deal? Hooray!!!!

And Susan, if that’s what your Mom looks like you have nothing to worry about as concerns getting older. Holy cow, she is more gorgeous than some of my thirty year old friends. There are some mighty good genes in that family of yours!

Have an awesome weekend and are we all having dinner in NY next Monday prior to the biggest film premier to hit the U.S. since Beowulf?



Kimberly November 30, 2007 at 10:31 am

‘coasters RULE! So much more fun than ferris wheels…


Kimberly November 30, 2007 at 10:42 am

It took me fifteen minutes to figure out what the hell you were talking about, Robin! :-O

I won’t be able to meet up beforehand – location prep and all (there’ll even be an arts-n-crafts table! I’m so excited!) – but afterwards, I’m all yours!


Erin November 30, 2007 at 10:49 am

susan, i was thinking the same thing about your mama – beautiful!


Pia Z. E. November 30, 2007 at 12:05 pm

I like your mom’s ring. She looks so much like you and vice versa. Grandmother’s arms are meant to be hidden in.


robinslick November 30, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Ooh, I love arts-n-crafts. What time should I get there? I can help prep…unless the Hendersons want a third person at dinner…but I must be on that dreaded last train home at 11:00 p.m. Someone please explain to me why there are no trains from NYC to Philly after 11:00. That makes absolutely no sense at all!


Kimberly November 30, 2007 at 1:17 pm

no worries – the after-spot is exactly 7 minutes’ walk to Penn Station. 🙂 Plenty of post-premiere party potential!


aimeepalooza November 30, 2007 at 5:38 pm

So, agreed, your Mom is stunning. And, perhaps its just because styles change, but it seems she’s actually getting prettier with age. I’m jealous!
The roller coaster: it was a good one. Thanks!


Gail Siegel November 30, 2007 at 9:10 pm

Your mom looks great. Wow.

Thanks for the link, Susan. This week you (and Chuck) really got me thinking…


Chuck December 1, 2007 at 11:34 am

I called them the ‘dirty dozen,’ murders that came so close to home you could smell the rage. It happens when you live part of your life in the streets. Sadly, that is exactly where I spent much of the years some of my peers were spending in colleges and jobs.

One particular murder happened to BQ, I will withhold his name because his family is still prominent in this area. Q was the outcast, a drunk and a mousey little guy who would get a nose full and spout off to bigger, meaner drunks that inhabited the same little hell on earth called the C-Saw bar and grill.

It wasn’t much, one bullet to the chest. Q looked down at the wound and tried to tug at the tattered and still glowing hole in his shirt – it was close range – as though he could yank the death stone from his body. Then his legs collapsed under him, he hit the concrete floor as though falling from a great distance and his face froze.

I was there; cowering beneath the bar with a dozen other patrons whose pain-free moments were forced into oblivion by this rip in time and sanity. It was a temporary bar tender who went permanently mad. I hear Q’s wealthy family gave him quite a send-off, reversing the disownment postmortem.

None of us from the Saw were welcomed at the services.


Heather_Fowler December 1, 2007 at 10:11 pm


I love the pic at the top with you in the baseball cap, love your expression, and the Gary Gilmore elementary story! Love the grandma and hiding boy pic, too! xoxoxo, H


Aurelio December 2, 2007 at 11:21 am

That 4th pic with your mom: Isn’t it just like you to be working for the Red Cross at what… age 6??? Stamping out the death penalty in the morning and healing the sick in the afternoon??? If there’s ever a total collapse of civilization, I want you next to me, Susan.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:42 pm

I could do the Rebel Yell, front car or last car, with my hands in the air. You?


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Thank you. I think she’s very beautiful, too. Unfortunately, I inherited my looks from my dad.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:44 pm

She has some crazy-fun jewelry. Lots of bugs and scarabs.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:45 pm

I think she’s way more confident now, which makes everything prettier and more relaxed.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Chuck’s great for getting you thinking.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:47 pm

Wow, Chuck. This is not just an amazing story; it’s amazingly told!


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:49 pm

I like that photo, too. Especially the hair, which is so knotted on one side, it looks 7 inches shorter than the other side. If you go through my photo album, you’ll see that same smile over and over again.


SusanHenderson December 11, 2007 at 8:51 pm

Um, you might not want to follow my lead if there’s a total collapse of civilization. I tend to curl into a ball and hope someone rescues me.


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