Animation and cartoons are commonly associated with fantasy, but one of the great things about working with StoryCorps has been the opportunity to work with real people and real stories. A whole other fascinating story exists outside of the cartoon— the story of the subjects’ lives themselves. Sarah Littman, the mother featured in “Q&A”, has written a great in-depth blog post about the story behind she and Joshua’s recording at StoryCorps. What follows is an edited excerpt. For Sarah’s full post, go here.
So how did Joshua and I end up at StoryCorps in the first place? Well, every school vacation since my kids were little, I’ve tried to have a one-on-one day with each of them, doing something fun … An entire day of Mom’s Undiluted Focus.
In February 2006, I was in year two and counting of a difficult divorce and to say that thing were difficult financially was an understatement. There was no way I could afford to take the kids away, but figured I could splurge enough to spend a fun day in New York City with each of the kids, doing something that they would enjoy. Amie, my artsy, musical daughter, wanted to go see “Wicked.” Joshua’s first response, inevitably, was that he wanted to go the Nintendo World store, the self-proclaimed “gaming paradise in the center of New York City.”
Now there are a lot of things that Joshua and I enjoy doing together, but video games are not one of them. Yes, I’ll admit to having suffered from a Tetris addiction when the original Game Boy came out – I think it was that corny Russian music. But if it’s a matter of spending hours in front of a screen playing some game involving a princess being saved by an elf or an Italian plumber, call me old-fashioned but I’d rather read a book.
But this was supposed to be Joshua’s day, so I agreed that we would go to the Nintendo Store. Being the evil parent that I am, however, I insisted that we do something else as well – something cultural preferably, but I was willing to accept pretty much anything that didn’t have to do with video games.
Unfortunately, Joshua wasn’t particularly forthcoming with other ideas.
“What do you think about going to StoryCorps?” I asked him. “You could interview me – you know, ask me anything you want and I’ll answer it.”
Joshua’s reaction was probably typical for a 12 year old boy who is being told he has to do something besides going to Nintendo World: “I dunno.”
“It’ll be fun!” I assured him.
He didn’t look entirely convinced.
Sometimes, Mom just has to make executive decisions. Clearly, this was one of those times.
And so, few weeks later, we found ourselves sitting on the Metro North train into the city, our action plan mapped out. Lunch at Mars 2112, a Martian-themed restaurant on the West Side, back to Grand Central for our StoryCorps session and then over to Rockefeller Center where teen-boy mecca Nintendo World is located.
Somewhere around Mamaroneck, I made Joshua put down his Nintendo DS and handed him my omnipresent writer’s notebook and pen.
“Write down some questions you want to ask me,” I said.
I expected grumbling, but he took the book and pen and started writing. I made the mistake of not looking at the questions when he handed the notebook back. I just stuck it in my bag.
After an entertaining meal at Mars 2112, complete with Martians, mad scientists, and gooey chocolate desserts, Joshua and I headed back to Grand Central Station and found the StoryCorps booth.
It’s almost surreal how quiet it is when you enter the booth, after navigating the noisy bustle of Grand Central. We sat on opposite sides of a small table, each with our own microphone. Our facilitator, did a sound check and adjusted the mikes for our voices. Like many kids with Aspergers, Joshua was born without volume control. He has one voice setting – loud.
Our facilitator asked us to each say the date and where we were conducting the interview, and then, with Joshua’s first question, it started.
The rest, as they say, is history. But not quite. Sarah and Joshua’s story continues. They will be featured on Good Morning America this Sunday, Mother’s Day. And of course, their lives go on outside of StoryCorps. Joshua is nearly ready to graduate high school. Sarah continues her life as a mother and her career as an author and writer. It’s one of the really great parts of documentary storytelling— the story lives on in interesting and unexpected ways.
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