Retreads tells the middle of the story begun in Thundering Sneakers and concluded in Sneaking Out. In this collection of essays, Prudence Mackintosh follows her sons through the "tween" years between little boyhood and adolescence. Vividly portraying the chaos that descends on a house full of active children, she also records the many first times and last times that give poignancy to the middle years of motherhood.
The title Retreads was supposed to be temporary, used until I could come up with something snappier. Somehow, the temporary moniker stuck. It meant another siege of gilded tennis shoes on tables at luncheons where I was the guest speaker. I became the lady who writes about tennis shoes.
Despite its lackluster title, the book was introduced by Jane Pauley on the Today show. After the interview, Jane remarked, "Prudence, I don't know why your publisher isn't promoting this nationwide. You speak with an accent, but you certainly don't write with one." Jane had no idea how consciously I had tried to round my flat Texas i's and keep the -ng's on my verbs so I might sound as geographically neutral as any television anchor.
Jane pressed me a bit about a statement in the last chapter of the book: "I was old enough to appreciate the pleasures of limited ambition." What did I mean? Well, I had turned down an inquiry about national newspaper syndication because I had a gut sense of the tension levels and privacy invasion our household could bear. "But syndication would have brought money that could have paid for a full-time housekeeper," she said. "And if someone else were doing the laundry, I would miss a lot of my material that comes from stuff left in jeans pockets," I responded. Being more ambitious during these years would have distanced me from the very people I cared about most. After all, I wasn't on the brink of discovering the cure for cancer. My husband summed up my attitude by saying, "She only wants to be nationally famous, locally."
Retreads was lived and written on the run. It covers a period of family life that I would otherwise recall as a great blur. I'm awfully glad I scribbled a bit of it down.
Prudence Mackintosh December 2001
By Prudence Mackintosh
A contributing editor of Texas Monthly magazine, Prudence Mackintosh is a popular author and public speaker, whose commentary on family life, schooling, Texas women, and Dallas architecture has also appeared in such magazines and newspapers as McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, D Magazine, Parenting, and the Dallas Morning News. She lives in Dallas with her husband, John A. Mackintosh, Jr., with whom she looks forward to completing the conversations interrupted by their sons thirty years ago.