Thundering Sneakers begins the story of the Mackintosh boys. In these essays, Prudence Mackintosh describes the delights and terrors of living with little boys who are determined to be boys, despite the carefully nonsexist childrearing practices of the 1970s. With telling vignettes of boyish disasters that drive her to despair, as well as the rare quiet moments of hugs and confidences that make it all worthwhile, she perfectly captures the early years when a young mother still looks for "the real mother" to come and bail her out.
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When your first book is called Thundering Sneakers, you are not likely to grow up to be Virginia Woolf. Early in my career, the Washington Post, commenting on the rapid growth of a sassy Texas magazine, dubbed me "Texas Monthly's Erma Bombeck." While I greatly admired Erma's deft one-liners and especially her ability to turn out three-hundred-word gems several times a week, I chafed a bit at the comparison. Erma wrote to be funny. I just found myself in absurd situations and wrote them down. I had enough sense to know that I was in good company, however. (My husband reminded me that Erma was commanding about half a million a year at the time.) Time magazine called Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe "the thinking woman's Erma Bombeck," and Erma Bombeck herself admitted that her early work was usually described with references to Jean Kerr (Please Don't Eat the Daisies). Although I professed no serious literary ambitions, I took some comfort in the fact that Shirley Jackson ("The Lottery") had also published a slim volume about her own chaotic domestic scene, called Raising Demons.
While from time to time I lamented not having a daughter, I realize now that writing about boys had its advantages. Letters attest to the fact that my audience included both both male and female readers. Among the most touching of those letters was one from a man who wrote that divorce had separated him geographically from his three kids when they were at an early age. He said that my stories gave him an intimate look at what might have been his own children's "tiny histories."
Boys were seldom at my elbow, as girls might have been. They weren't very interested in the things I did, and we certainly didn't spend much time together shopping. I snatched writing moments while they excavated the alley, and, of course, they did not want my undivided attention when they were attaching contraband firecrackers to hapless Star Wars figures.
I remain grateful to former Texas Monthly editors Bill Broyles and Anne Barnstone for asking good questions and for letting me get away with writing about my most accessible subjects. It enabled the young mother of these chapters to respond to the annoying "And what do you do?" of the seventies without having to put on pantyhose or to leave the little guys she'd fallen in love with.
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.