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A quick warning. There are curse words that are unbeaped in today's episode of the show. If you prefer a beeped version, you can find that at our website, thisamericanlife. Org. Wbez Chicago, This American Life. I'm Eric Goss.


Okay, so listen, right now we're going to be a little bit quiet because we're going to have a family talk. Are you ready for a family talk? Wait, wait, wait, wait, Dad. What?


Brian LeBaron is the dad of a big family, seven kids and all. He mostly grew up in the United States, but his father and most of his family is Mexican. He moved back there a few years ago. Back in November, he gathered everybody together for a family meeting outside on a patio. Most of the kids were on a long bench, holding pillows.


Lexie thinks that this is an important moment in our family, and I agree with her.


Lexie is Lexie Harrison-Cripps, the journalist that recorded this meeting, because she knew what some of the kids did not know, that Brian was planning to run for a seating Mexico's House of Representatives.


What does that mean?


I want to work for the government. That's what that means. And since I'm going to be running, it's going to be a lot of work for me. I'm going to be traveling a lot. I'm going to be away from home a lot. And when we go places, people are going to want pictures. So maybe you're walking with me and somebody will take a picture of us. We don't know how that-. We don't know exactly what that's going to be like, right? But one of the things also is that Because of certain things that happen in our family, now there's people in our town that may not want to vote for me. And it might even cause people to want to be mean to our family. Okay? I want to have a talk, Mom, and I wanted to have a talk with you so that you can be ready.


Now, just ready for the campaign, which is months away. But he's caught his family meeting right now in November because something's come up that's not only going to affect his candidacy, but everyone in the family in the next few days. What's happened is that Macario, their 17-year-old, has just made a big public decoration on Instagram, telling the world that he's gay, which in some places would be like, whatever. But this family is Roman, living in a tight-knit fundamentalist community in Mexico. Macario and the other kids go to a fundamentalist Norman school that very much disapproves of homosexuality. Brian figured kids in school might start saying cruel and hateful stuff to Macario and his brothers and sisters. Already, some classmates were posting pretty awful comments on Instagram. Brian wanted all of his children to be prepared.


Okay, guys. So guess what? You know how a lot of times we always went to church and we always hear about people that are going to date and get married.


Three of the kids listening to this are young. There's nine-year-old Ariella, seven-year-old Chanel, and four-year-old Franco. What that means is that before Brian can tell them, your brother is gay, he first has to explain gay, the whole idea of gayness to these little kids.


Shannelle, this is more for you and Ariella, okay? Have you guys ever heard of the term gay?


A what?




Oh, Yeah.


What does it mean?


Gay means?


People that wear necklaces that are necklaces.


Boys that wear necklaces that are for girls?


Good guess, he tells him. That's okay. And then launches into his explanation. It can be... He keeps it simple.


But when people say the word gay, usually it means either two boys that like each other.


I knew it.


Maybe even one day want to get married, or two girls that like each other, or that maybe even want to get married. Somebody who feels that way, Just like I look at mom and I think she's beautiful, there can be boys that look at other boys and think they're beautiful. Okay? Does that make sense?


It's yes all around.




On to the big reveal.


Well, guess what? Macario, he thinks that boys are beautiful, and he thinks that he wants to fall in love with a boy. Okay? And that's what people call gay. Now, that doesn't What does that mean that something's wrong with Macario. Macario is perfect just the way that he is, and we love him, and we're always going to love him.


But why did they call it gay?


That's just the name they gave it. Why did they call Boys, Boys, and Girls, Girls? There's just a name for everything.


I just said that two years ago, this This is not how Brian would have talked about being gay. He was raised to believe that it was a choice and sinful. But when Macario came out to him, Macario explained that he had already tried to pray and fast his way out of being gay. That was impossible. Brian believed him. He changed how he saw all of it. And as he talks about Macario with the family, Macario is sitting exactly in between his two little sisters as they're going on what gay means. He smiles like a mystery contest on an old-timey game show whose secret identity was just revealed.


I didn't really know what was going on.


And did your dad tell you, Okay, here's what we're going to explain to the kids in this meeting?




I was going to say I was gay, and It was not very planned out. This is, of course, Macario. He says it felt good to hear his dad say all these things in front of everybody. Next, Brian explained to the little ones in the family, The kids in school might be pretty mean about Macario. I don't need to be ready.


When people say, Oh, your brother is gay, he's going to go to the devil. Oh, ha, ha, ha. I will say. That's what people would say. That was not true.




What's not true? That Macario is gay?


No, that he's going to go to the devil.


So I want you to be ready because little kids can be mean sometimes. Yeah, I know. Okay? No.


Macario tells them about some of the mean things the kids have said at school. There's this one kid. Their dad said, They can't do anything to legally kick me out of the town, but they can do everything in their power to make it so that I won't to leave on my own. And they just only did that and are doing that because I'm gay. That's the only reason. And I know that they're just doing that because they've been told their whole life that I'm terrible, that anyone is a terrible person if they're gay. So I mean, I get where they're coming from, but When they started just saying shit, I mean, started saying stuff about my friends and the people supporting me and then you guys, how that guy said that, he was like, No, we can't blame the devil for this. It's their parents' fault. They raised him wrong. They lived in California, Western culture or whatever.


When they said that, it just made me so bothered because I'm like, you can get mad at me and you can think that I'm this or that, but all these people who are supporting you.


So everybody's on the same page, all prepared. Macario is feeling great about it.


I think it's ever been.


You got that right. Okay, I want a hug.


When they go to school after this prep, none of the things that Brian prepared them for happened. School made a rule that nobody could talk about Macario. Overall, most of the Mormon community continued to treat Macario like they always had. While this was a little sad for nine-year-old Ariella, who marched into school ready to tussle, defend her beloved brother after the family meeting.


She said, Well, I walked into class and I just said, Hi, everybody. How's it going? Anything new? It happened yesterday? And they're like, No. And so she said, Well, how about the day before? No, nothing new. And she said, Hmm, okay. And so she just went on about her day. So I don't know. It didn't seem to faz the younger kids at school. It was more Macario's class mates. I think the teenagers just may be shocked by it and not understanding exactly what to think.


In fact, some teenagers set off a pretty frightening array of fire crackers at their house. Threw rocks wrapped in pieces of paper with Macario's name written on them. Which was scary. Kids and adults posted comments online like, Macario should find a tall tree and a rope. He should die. Brian and his wife, Wendy, took all the kids out of the Marvin school. But the family had been prepped. They understood that people might get mad about Macario. And inside the family, the family meeting set the tone. It was a preemptive strike that made Macario's gayness a non-issue, a non-negotiable fact.


They really have had little questions, not many questions since then. It seemed to really not faz them at all. It was just, Okay, that's cool. What are we going to do tomorrow?


Can we have a snack? Is there ice cream? That's it, exactly. Well, today in our program, The Power of a Family Meeting. To drop some news like your brother's gay, or the classic when people remember, I guess, we're getting a divorce. Then there are the administrative family meetings. Our parents announced some changes in how we do the dishes around here or take out the garbage or whatever. Everybody's going to be doing their fair share. What a family meeting can and cannot accomplish, especially in families where the kids do not want to go with the parents' plan. That's our show today. Stay with us. Like one, a slow decision process that's mostly, but maybe not completely over. Sometimes, when there's a family decision, the family can keep talking about it for months, on and off, in the car, at meals, whenever, with everybody weighing in with different points of view. Over the last few months, I've been talking to the parents in one family like that. Back when I first chatted with them in December, I asked the dad and the family how often the topic comes up.


We are talking about that almost in each minute of the day. Even right now, before you called, we were talking about what we're going to do.


This is Litan Pinian. What he's talking about with his wife, Michal, is where are they going to live next? Their youngest couple in Israel with three kids, 9, 11, and 13 at the time of this conversation, both educators. He's head development, building a school and a campus for Bedwins, nomadic Arab tribes. Michal?


I'm an educational counselor.


No, she's a doctor of education. She's a doctor of education.


Litan, why do you feel like you have to jump in and say that?


Because we can end the conversation without you to know that she's really a doctor.


Rautan is. Perhaps you can tell somebody who's always quick to speak his mind. Sure of what he thinks. Baha'al is more deliberative. They used to live in a kibbutz in Israel, kibbutz Be'ery, on the border with Gaza. When Hamas crossed that border on October seventh, like so many families, they hid in the safe room in their house. Dozens of their neighbors were killed, more at Bayeri than at any kibbutz that day, one in 10 people, including Mikhaal's parents. When it was over, they and most everyone else from the kibbutz were relocated to a tourist hotel by the Dead Sea, an hour and a half drive from their old home on the Gaza border.


The whole kibbutz is here. The hotel is closed just for our kibbutz. There's no guests from outside.


We are talking about something like 1,000 people inside this hotel. You have a lot of discussions that just in the lobby.


Discussions about where they're all going to live next. In December, when we first talked, it was just two months after the attack, and each family had to decide, would they stay with the community? Would they ever want to return to the kibbutz, where they'd just gone through this traumatic assault?


It's 1,000 people. You have a lot of ideas. You have those people who want to stay together wherever the kibbutz will go. And those said, No.


Lots of people, especially the older people, were sure they wanted to go back and rebuild. People with kids were all over the place. And leaving a kibbutz, quitting kibbutz life, is a big deal. A kibbutz is a special tight-knit community. Kibbutzim were originally set up as collective farms on socialist principles. And Be'erah is still run on the old-school socialist ideals most kibbutzim in Israel have abandoned. For example, as a member of the kibbutz, you turn over every cent that you earn at your job. Your entire paycheck to the collective.


But the kibbutz gives us everything we need.


And that means everything. They give you a house to live in, cars to drive, full health care, a gym, and a swimming pool, and a dining hall if you don't want to cook, and spending money for necessities, but also for fun stuff like family vacations, to cover your kid's school and college. Children spend all day, every day with other kids their age. That's a great way to raise kids. They can roam around. Michal describes what's so nice about Kibbutz life this way.


You don't have any worries, mortgage or payments. You have a very strong community that makes you feel belong to something big Miral grew up this way on this kibbutz and loved it.


Khotan moved to Bayri with her when they first got together. He changed it some of the rules at first, but got used to life in this big extended family. Now, after October seventh, here he was with all of them at this hotel, figuring out what to do next.


You know, a hotel, it's a nice place for three days of vacation, but it's not the way of living. To see the smallest one, Go to sleep at something like midnight.


You don't have a family environment.


Michal and Gautam were in one hotel room. The three kids were cooped up in another, getting on each other's nerves and into each other's hair. It's hard to be a family in that scattered situation. It was hard to supervise the kids. They were gone all day at work. Michal now had a 90-minute commute each way to and from her job. There was school for the kids, but it was a makeshift thing the kibbutz organized. Not real school.


It's more like a babysitting.


The challenge, the big challenge is for the older children. They don't want to go.


After just a few weeks of this, Litan started to think, This is not good for our children. Maybe we need to get out of here, leave the hotel. Leave our friends and family behind.


I realized that we're going to stuck here in the Dead Sea for something like six, seven months. It's not our home. Let's do something else. Let's heal our family.


Latam was pushing to look for another place.


Michal was not into this idea at all of moving away from the hotel from the other kibbutz members I understood why he wants to leave, but it was hard for me to leave the people I grew up with.


These are the people I know all my life. So it was hard for me I need to understand that I'm leaving them. For me, I need to get used to the idea. I need time.


That's the process with our relationship.


His password. If If I- He adjusts very quickly.


If I'm deciding something after I do my own thinking- He's very quickly. I move forward.


I'm a slower person. I need time to do things.


Yeah. So they had to decide if they would move out of the hotel. But there was a bigger question they were going to have to face someday. Should they move back to their kibbutz near the Gaza border? Like, ever. At this point, it's unclear how long the war will drag on. Over 1,600 Israelis have died, according to the Israeli military, and over 29,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. Other kibbutzniks, kibbutz members, told me that they would only move back if somehow there were peace at the border or some conceivable path to some peace plan that would seem fair to the Palestinians. So the kibbutzniks wouldn't have to worry about future attacks coming across the border. Which, in a practical way, probably means they won't be moving back anytime soon. Michal and Litan, try to imagine what it would take for them to return.


Lataan was asking me a few days ago, Do you want to go to our home? Can you go back to this house?


Do you want to go back to a graveyard that 92 of your kibbutz members, including your father and mother, murdered there? Do you want to go back? You're going to cross the places that you know what happened there. The stories will come out in front of your eyes. It's a question.


Okay, so feel free to say as much or as about this as you want. I'd like to ask you just a little bit about what happened with your family on October seventh, just so people understand what it is you'd be going back to. 6:30 AM.


We had an unusual, unusual, massive missiles attack. When I say unusual, it's not normal to have even one missile, but that was really a massive attack. We run to the safe room, close the door, and the first thought I had is, Okay, it's 6:30 AM. We probably will not go back to sleep. Let's turn on the coffee machine.


For decades, safe rooms have been required in all new Israeli homes, reinforced to withstand rocket attacks. Soon, Michal and Gautan see on the Kibbutz WhatsApp group that attackers have made it inside the Kibbutz. But they assume it's small, maybe five or 10 fighters, and they assume the army will be there soon.


But minutes after that, when everyone was saying, They are here, they are there, they are shooting at my house, they are throwing a grenade, and you know everyone who is living, you understand that they are spread all over the kibbutz. Then just close the door and try to find ropes and things like that in order to tight the handle of the door because people were trying We were starting to write that they are seeking to open the safe room and taking people outside and shoot them.


We should explain that the safe rooms are designed for missiles coming in, not for people coming in trying to break into the safe room, so they don't lock from the inside.




Because that's one huge part of our family's story. Because on something like 9:15, Michal Mothers was writing us on the WhatsApp, there are terrorists near our house, and then there are terrorists inside the house. They are throwing grenades.


They are shooting through the safe room door.


We didn't understand that my dad was shot while sitting in the safe room. The bullets penetrate the door, and he was wounded while sitting in the safe room.


Because, brother Yuval, talked to the mom then.


He was telling her, Mom, be strong. Keep the door tight. The army is on his way. He was lying. There is no army at the kibbutz. But she, that she was a really strong, realistic woman, she was saying to him, No, Yuval. I think this is the last time we're going to talk. Please tell everybody that we love them.


The last message is on WhatsApp have Meharona brothers saying, Mom, keep writing all the time. What's happening with you. Mom, answer. Their mom says, Dad was shot and the terrain grenades. They blew up the safe room.


At 10:04, she was writing on the WhatsApp, Help, help, twice. That's the last word we have. Now, imagine that we are sitting in our safe room, one minute walking from them, can do nothing, and realize that we don't have any more mom or dad for Michal, grandfather and grandmother for our children.


Do you tell the children?


Yes, they heard, they knew. They kept asking, What about grandpa and grandma? The The only answer I had was, I don't know. I didn't want to say something that it's not true. I just told them that, I don't know. It's hard to hear that. I don't know.


What Tante has, at this point, they realized they needed to do anything they could think of to keep their kids alive.


But what I had only is a baseball bat, a dog that probably will get killed in the first time they're going to go. They were hanging under our house.


They, Hamas fighters. It seemed like they were using the storage space downstairs as a small base, keeping weapons there. The family heard explosions and gunfire. The youngest, the boy, again, is nine years old.


My son, in a terrified way, told us, Dad, I don't want to die here. We looked at him and told everyone, No, no one is going to die here. We have the dog, the baseball bet, and we are in the second floor. That's our fortress. You, all of you, are now going to write what you're going to take, when we're going to be outside, when they're going to rescue us. They made their list.


They waited. From the morning all through the afternoon and into the night, trying not to make any No noise at all. They had no food, no water. Someone had to pee. They did it in a waste basket while everybody looked away. They were there for 19 hours with their kids. What did they do all that time?


They didn't do nothing.


We did nothing.


They watched me and woke me up if I was falling asleep because I was handling the handle of the door with a baseball bat and what I ever did to tight the door with ropes and things like that. They heard the shooting or the explosion or things like that. They just were silenced. They were amazing. They understand the situation.


Finally, the army came at midnight and rescued them. When they got to the hotel the next day, of course, the kids couldn't just shake this off. Their son, a nine-year-old, had a full day of whispering in the safe room.


He's the most I think, the fragile one. He kept whisper three days after that in the hotel. We just brought him his drums and his Lego, and he started to live again, so it's okay.


It's a good day to go back and live in Bay Area Two or three weeks after the attack, Michal went home again, the first time, to the kibbutz, to see what it was like.


Going back was very hard for me. When I was there, I just shut myself. I just saw everything, but I was Very… How do you say this word? I don't know. I'll pick it. Very cool. I was very cool, yes.


Like your feelings were shut down.


Exactly. I was there for 10 minutes. I took some stuff that my daughter asked. I couldn't stand. It's not my home. It was so messy and dirty. I couldn't stay there.


That's interesting. It didn't even seem like your home. It just seemed like some other place.


No, it's not mine.


Other people I talked to who returned to the Kibbutzim told me that walking into their homes, it was like everything was frozen from when they ran out, like it was still October seventh. One woman said she felt like she was watching herself in a movie. She felt so distanced from it. One man told me he tries to go back once a week to try to absorb what's happened.


I couldn't even sit on my sofa. I was there just for 10 minutes. I couldn't stay in the house.


When you think about going back there, what do you think? Going back there to try to live there, how would that work?


I don't know. I don't know. That's the big question. Something Some days I'm telling to myself, yes, I want to go back. Some days I'm telling, what are you thinking about? This is not a place to live. It's a graveyard. No, no, no. It's still not It's not a decision I can make now. I need more time.


She went back to the hotel, but they still had to decide where would they live right now. Should they leave the hotel and set it on their own in the short run? By early November, Hultan definitely wanted to leave. Michal did not. And then, she saw how badly their oldest daughter, Aya, was doing. Again, Aya is 13. And the weeks after October seventh, she was the person in the family struggling the most. She was skipping school every day and tried to hide it from them. She just stayed in her room all day doing nothing. This was completely unlike her, Michal says. Before October seventh, she loved going to school, went happily, never missed a day. She was an athlete, came up in volleyball at seven, three nights a week. The night she would hang with her friends, she was busy.


To see her going to sleep very late at night and want to sleep late in the morning. Everything she had, it's not happening. No school, no learning, no volleyball. The only thing that left is her friends, which are confused as she is. So they're going around with no purpose. And this is what bothers us the most, that there is no purpose for them here. They need something to wake up for it in the morning. And over here, it's too much pain and too much dark.


Seeing I like this, that's what convinced Michal, that was Thomas Wright. They needed to get away from the hotel. Their kids needed that. But where to go? Now, as they were talking about this as a couple, Members of the kibbutz were in a much bigger conversation about leaving the hotel as a group. There was so much damage to their kibbutz. So many homes and buildings set on fire, burned to the ground, bombed, hit with grenades and bullets. It would take two or three years to rebuild before they could move back. So they were looking at temporary places that the whole group could relocate to while that happened. And Lutang was one of the kibbutz leaders, figuring out where they should go. The choice came down to two locations. And Lutang led the side that wanted to go to a peaceful village called Kedma. The idea is everybody could move there and heal, to figure out in a few years whether they would move back to Bayri or not. The vote was November 22nd. Lutang's side lost. By 40 votes. And the place that Kibbutz chose, in Khatsarim, near a big air base, that was a place that he and Mikhalad did not want to live.


I knew already. I knew for sure that she's thinking the same.


Yeah, I remember he told me, I'm not moving to Hatzerim. And I said, okay.


And that decided it. They were not going to stay with the kibbutz. They'd strike out on their own. So they talked to their kids about this plan. Aya hated it. She didn't want to speak with me for this story, but her parents say she was angry. One thing she still had from her old life was her friends who'd just gone through this trauma together. We're still going through it in a way.


She had two friends that were kidnapped, and they returned from Gaza Street. She had also one friend that was severely wounded and lost her mother and her brother.


One is dead.


And one is dead.


What did she say to you when she was angry about it? What was she saying?


She was shouting why we have to take her apart of her friends and that we're not thinking about her. It was hard to hear. When you live in the kibbutz, the friends are the most important thing. I don't know how to express this in words, but we have this connection that you cannot find anywhere else because we grew up together. We did everything together. We hang up in the morning, in the afternoon. We slept together, we ate together, we studied together, we did everything together. This is what she have right now, and she's going to lose it. I understand why she's angry. I understand. But I don't want that death will be so present in every way. I don't want it.


The two other kids were good with the idea of them leaving the hotel. Their littlest told them, We can live in a car as long as we're together. It's fine. But with Aya, she came back to it over and over.


It happens all the time.


It's every day. Are you sure you want to go? Are you sure you're not going to stay?


Rauh explained to Aya that since they really might never move back to Bayri, it didn't make sense to move to the temporary location with her friends right now and then split with them in three years and start over again. Easier to leave now at an age when she can make new friends. She told Aya that she would drive her back to see her old friends anytime she wants. There are certain things she didn't say to Aya.


I didn't tell her that I don't want to live in a place that morning is going to be a big part of everything. I cannot tell her this.


Why not?


I don't know.


Do you not want to say that to her because you're scared it will affect how she sees her friends and their life back in the kibbutz?


Yes. Just yesterday, they told us that Yosey, her best friend's father, were murdered in captivity. It's going to happen all the time.


That conversation was in January. They were still in the hotel. The plan was to move February first to a house near a city called Kyriat Gat, maybe a half hour drive from the border. It's at this point, the family got a lucky break, something they didn't expect.


The school she's going to go to, There is friends that she knows from our area that move to the same place.


Oh, wow. That's really, really fortunate.


Yes. It makes her heart more calm. These are kids that she knows, and she's friends of, not from Berry exactly, but just from our area. She's not opposite anymore as she used to. Today was the first day she went to school and study and opened her notebook. Just today, after three months.


Maybe Michal said she finally understands that things are going back to normal. She's going to have to go to school like normal with other kids who are moving on. As Moving Day approached, feelings in the family were all over the place. I was up and down, a lot of down.


I think Arbel and Dada, the little kids, they are excited to see the new life. L'autan is very excited about this. I'm not excited. I feel sad leaving the kibbutz, even though I decided to do that. It's still sad for me. This is decision of moving, but I didn't choose it. This is what makes me so sad. They chose it. They decided it for me.


You mean Hamas?


Yes. It's hard for me not to have my parents around and not to ask them what they think. You know, My mom, if I would move, she will come and help me clean and help me decide what to do. Now, she's not here to do that. Every decision is she's so present with her not presence. I don't know how to say it.


They moved February first, and I called one last time a few weeks after that. The kids are in the new schools. The family is running a house. Routan and Michal are embracing for what it's going to be like to have their paychecks paid to them directly and living the way you and I do, where we have to worry about money and paying bills. But one thing that was different in this last call was that they both seem way more certain that they're never going to move back to Bayre. There's a possibility, sure, but they both said it's likely they'll never return. Aya, meanwhile, is mad all the time. It's very severe, Michal told me. Worse than before. She has all the time to be driven back to the hotel to see her friends. She's gone back once a week. Michal feels like this is one of these parenting choices where she and Gautan made the right call to get the family away from the hotel and start a new life. That doesn't make it feel any better. She told me she hopes that someday, I will understand and even forgive them for it. Coming up, if you want to inspire your family at a family meeting once a week, every single week, after a while, how do you come up with anything original to say?


That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio, When Our Program continues. This is American Life, Myra Glass. Today's show, Family Meeting, stories of people who care about each other or are supposed to care about each other, coming together to figure stuff out. Of course, these meetings happen in non-family settings. Also, I personally find it revolting when any boss refers to as employees as family, but I acknowledge there is an entire workplace version of this. Of course, there's a whole tradition of this in sports. High school sports teams where the coach sits everybody down for the big come to Jesus talk about how things have been going and what needs to happen next. What if our producer Chris Bender was looking around at the stuff that high school coaches say to teams before their big games? I found a lot of, let's get out there and crush them. Also a lot of the underdog version of that, nobody believes in us, but I believe in us. Then you run across this one speech where the coach tried a different approach. Kind of striking.


Talk mostly, you seniors.


Can you go back to- This is in a locker room in South Lake, Texas. The team is the Cedar High School High Longhorns. Their coach, Joey Maguire. They're in the playoffs. They lose this game, season's over. The team is ready to go out onto the field.


This is a lot different. You go week five, week six. There's always another We each seven. This is different. We don't take care of business.


That's it.


Ain't coming back in the locker room next week. If you care about each other enough like we talk about, if you care about, love each other like we talk about, you'll have a sense of urgency to get one more week with your family.


To get one more week with your family.


We'll find out- Smart, right? How important- Win, and we get one more week together. That's all I'm doing. That's all I'm doing. The producer Chris wondered if this was a move that the coach uses a lot. So he caught up Coach McGuire, who said, yes, he has said this before in other playoffs, but he said it's also a thing he feels. I talk all the time about being a family and being more than just a team. That was such a huge game. I mean, there's probably 15,000 people. It's two of the best teams in the nation. These are Texas high school teams working their way up to a state Championship. Longhorns were playing the Carroll High School Dragons. Coach Maguire says that he knew that if they lost that game they were about to play, it really does feel like something. When you lose at the end of the season, that group of people, you're never going to play together again. It's almost like there's a death. Most people don't talk about that today could be the last game. And so that was my point. This ain't a bunch of guys that play football.


We just get to play football together because this is a brotherhood, this is a family. And man, whenever you have that, what's tough to destroy because you fight every single moment to keep it. That's what we got to do tonight because you win, we get another week together.


That's all I want.


That's all I want, guys.Are you all right with me? Yes, sir.


I love you guys. So the team went out there in front of all those people. How did it go? We ended up getting beat 37, 35 right at the end of the game on an absolutely horrible call, but we ended up getting beat 37, 35. Actually, it was a little worse than that, 37, 33. He says in the locker room afterwards, it was really hard. But even if you win the state Championship, which he has, that's hard, too, because that's the end. No more weeks together. Even if they win, there's that loss. He says he always makes it a point to thank the seniors. That's often harsh for the seniors, leaving the family. That, too, is sealed with a dis. Sometimes the reason for a family meeting is a conflict that a kid is having at school. Then the parent has to decide, did my kid do something wrong, or is the problem the other kid? In this next story, the parents have definitely come down on one side of that one. The story unfolds in a series of letters between two moms. It's an excerpt of a short story by Nafisa Thompson-Spires, read first by actors Eisa Davis and Erika Alexander.


Tuesday, October first, 1991. Hello, Monica. I'm sure you remember me from the class field trip to the Getty in September. It has been brought to my attention that your daughter Fatima may have started a nasty rumor about my Kristinia. I hope to clear this up as we both know how ugly these things can get. It is true that Kristinia's hamster died recently, but it is absolutely not true that it died at Chrissy's hand. At no time has Chrissy ever put Hambone or any of her previous hamsters in the microwave, dryer, or dishwasher. What child would make up something like that? It sounds, and I say this respectfully, so I hope you won't be offended, like Fatima has had a very hard time getting acclimated here, and that's understandable, but I do hope you will deal with her before any such incidents become frequent. Children who start lying young often end up with long patterns of dishonesty. All best, Dr. Lucinda Johnston, Cydee licensed therapist, Welcome Wagon, Westwood Primary School, Events Coordinator, Jack and Jill, Claremont Branch.


Monday, October seventh, 1991. Dear Lucinda, I apologize for my late reply, but I only found your letter at the bottom of Fatima's backpack when I did my weekly cleaning. Thank you for writing to me. Fatima says she only repeated what Kristinia herself told her. Many of Fatima's stories about Christina this this year and last, which I won't recount here, have been disturbing, to say the least. But none is disturbing as Kristinia's enjoyment of torturing rodents. Fatima has a strong imagination and writes beautiful Lyric poetry, which she started reading at age four, but she does not have a history of lying or telling gruesome stories. And unlike Christina, she has no history of running off with other girls' shoes while their feet dangle from the monkey bars. I I appreciate your concerns about Fatima, and even though Christina has made it much more difficult for her to find friends at Westwood, Fatima will acclimate soon. She's going to a sleepover at Emily's this weekend. Is Christina going? If so, I hope you will encourage her to play nice. Best, Monica Willis, PhD. Ps, it is true that liars who start young often end up with psychological and social problems of the sort that Christina has demonstrated over the past year.


How lucky for you and Christina that she has access to psychotherapy through your practice.


Dear Monica. I never expected so much defensiveness when I wrote my original letter. Perhaps you misread it. All I wanted to emphasize is that I understand why a girl in Fatima's position and one with her background, would make up such stories. It's hard to get attention in a new place. There is probably some petty jealousy going on, but I think we can resolve this. I don't know how you did things at Fatima's old school in Fresno, was it? But here, we try to help the children work through their problems without getting too involved. I suppose you already know and I have known all along that Kristinia will not attend Emily's party, so there's no need for me to encourage her to play nice. You've probably heard that history already, so I won't rehash it. But I will say that it wasn't Chrissy's fault that Emily broke her nose when she fell. Finally, and I say this respectfully, but maybe it would be wise to go through Fatima's backpack every night instead of once in a blue moon. I have heard from more than one parent that it smells like eggs. My best, Dr. Lucinda Johnston, licensed therapist, author of Train Up A Child.


Dear Lucinda, or should I say Dr. Johnston, I'd like to resolve this as much as you would, but that won't happen if all your letters begin and end with backbiting. I'm not of the mind that the only two Black children in the clash should be enemies, nor do I like the attention it draws to them or their parents when they're already in a difficult position. I would think that a Black woman of your stature and success would understand how isolating work in school environments like Westwood can be for people like us. I hoped Christina and Fatima could be friends and could support each other in this space, but it's been clear since second grade that you and Christina are not willing to make that work. I'm sure Fatima would let Christina into her growing inner circle, even her after-school reading club, if Christina would only apologize and behave. Jealousy can become a lifelong problem. On that note, I hate to bring this up now, but we were surprised by how poorly Christina behaved when Fatima's poem went over hers last year. I'd like to make sure that we don't end up with a repeat performance of that tantrum when the poetry competition rolls around this year.


Asked with a hard-boiled egg, we resolved that last spring and bought Fatima a new backpack, and I believe you knew that already. Cheers, Dr. Monica Willis, PhD, author of Every Voice Counts, helping children of color succeed at predominantly white schools.


Monica, excuse the informal note. I think you're doing both yourself and Fatima a great injustice by continually emphasizing her brilliance over other children. Lots of people skip grades, and skipping kindergarten isn't something to brag about. I doubt that the standards at her old school were as rigorous as those at Westwood. What exactly was she advanced at? Nap time? If you recall, moreover, I was there at the recital where Fatima read her award-winning poem. And while my doctorates, yes, plural, may not be in literature, I'm pretty sure hardly anyone would call Butterfly pie a work of poetic genius. You can't rhyme pie with pie multiple times and call that poetry. You just can't, even if you have the excuse of only being in fourth grade. Isn't your degree, by the way, an EDD? Lucinda.


Lucinda. I'm not surprised if Fatima's subtle wordplay was lost on you since it's clear reading problems run in the family. Not everyone is suited for literary work. I'm sure you know that from your own writing struggles and the extra effort you had to put behind your research in order for anyone to take it seriously. Isn't there still some issue with your last project and the IRB? Or is the issue with Dr. Patel's ex-wife? My very best, Monica.


Monica, I'm not going to dignify most of your comments with a response. This will be my last letter because I can see I'm not going to get anywhere with you. There's some blockage there that I really think you should explore with a licensed professional, especially if you call yourself a professor. At one time, I wondered if we were too harsh in recommending that you and your family wait another year before joining our Jack and Jill chapter. But I can see now that we were right. I'm afraid I can never recommend you for our club. You display a volatile combination of residual ghetto and uppity negress, and that will be your undoing if Fatima isn't. Sincerely, Dr. Lucinda M. Johnston, licensed therapist, author of Train Up A Child. Welcome Wagon, Westwood Primary School, Events Coordinator, Jack and Jill, Claremont Chapter.


Lucinda, I'm not even going to respond to that. But I will say that if someone here is uppity, it's the one of us with two little brats who have run off three au pairs. Who even uses that term? If they're not French, and I'm pretty sure your cousin Shackwana isn't, they're nannies. Nanny Please. And if they're your own relative, then they're just babysidders or bums who need a hookup. This busy-ness and the way it keeps you from connecting with your kids is half of your problem. The other half you probably can't fix without medication. Good thing you can write prescriptions. Oh, wait. You're not that doctor. How can I be uppity when I've never had any help and started out as a single parent before marrying Jordan? If putting myself through school and becoming the highest educated person in my family with no help but God's makes me uppity, then so be it. We are humble people in spite of our education and finances, and we have more class in our excrement than you have in your whole hamster her murdering family. And yes, there is a bit of ghetto still left in me, enough to tell you who can finish the fight if it gets to that point.


We're never too far from Oakland or the South Side. Let's keep it real, Monica.


Monica, I do believe that was a threat. The Claremont Police Department will not take this lightly. And tell Fatima to stop pinning notes to the inside of Christie's book bag when she's not looking. Chrissy could injure herself on a dirty safety pin, knowing you people, and end up with hepatitis A, B, or C, or worse. I've tried to resolve our differences by working directly and exclusively with you and their teacher, Mrs. Watson, but I will have no choice but to contact Principal Lee in addition to the police if this persists. Lucinda.


Lucinda, only you would suggest something so disgusting as intentionally injuring a child with a dirty safety pin. But then again, it was Christina who put that tack on Renee Potts' chair last year and caused her to need a tetanus shot. Perverse minds think alike, apparently. Lose my number and address and stop making your kid do your dirty work. M.


Monica. Turn blue, turn blue, turn Blue, blue, blue. Turn blue. Turn blue. Blue. Blue. Look, I've written a poem. Perhaps I should send it to Lady Bug magazine. Love Lucinda.


Lucinda, you need Jesus. Do not write me again, or I will contact my lawyer. I've asked Mrs. Watson to check Fatima's backpack for correspondence from you, and I have made it clear that I do not want further contact from you or Christina. You are not to speak to Fatima either. I'm requesting a meeting with the school and you and your husband so that we can nip this crazy mess in the bud once and for all. Monica, Jack and Jill, Claremont Chapter.


October 21st, 1991. Dear Mrs. Johnston and Mrs. Willis, it has come to my attention that your respective daughters, Kristinia and Fatima, engage in a brutal fistfight at school. As you know, this behavior violates not only the Westwood Code of Conduct, but also our core values as a school, and is punishable by expulsion. I am sending this letter as a follow-up to the discussion I had with each of you over the phone. I would like to meet with the two of you and Mrs. Watson ASAP. My secretary will schedule. Sincerely, Principal Lee, Westwood Primary and Secondary School. October 25th, 1991. Dear Doctors Willis, the school's board and I thank you for your generous donation and for agreeing to serve on the Westwood Welcome Wagon. Given the sharp improvement of your child's behavior, we can agree to rescind our threat of Fatima's expulsion from school. The reputation of our school depends on the efforts of involved parents like yourselves. Sincerely, Principal Lee.


November third, 1991 Lucinda. Thank you for inviting Fatima to Christie's party. She will be happy to attend. And thank you for the lovely fruit basket. You're so bad. It's true. Mrs. Watson looks terrible in that color, and yet Principal Lee finds reasons to look. But I won't say anything more in writing. Jordan and I will discuss the Jack and Jill Potluck with you when we see you. Xo, Monica.


Actors Erica Alexander and Eisa Davis, reading an excerpt of Belle Lettre with Alvin Mellet, reading Principal Lee. The story is by Nafisa Thompson-Spires. You can read the full story in her book of Short Stories: Heads of the Color People. Family, singing in the Kitchen. Family.


Running through the yard.




Going on vacation. Family. On a credit card. Family. All in this together. Family. We're taking a chance. Family. Black birds of a feather. Family. You got me shoes and dance.






On the way to the city. Family. Family. It ain't always pretty. Family.


Can drive you insane. Family. Got the keys to the kingdom. Family. Take it all like a car.




All for season. Family. Well, bless your heart.


The program is produced today by Sean Cole and Bim Adalimmi. People who put together today's program include Michael Comette, Aviva De Cornfield, Bethel Hopte, Cassie Halley, Rudy Lee, Seth Glyn, Katherine Raymando, Nadia Raymond, Safia Riddle, Ryan Rummery, Alyssa Shipp, Matt Tierney, and Diane Wu. Our managing editor, Sara Abderhamen. Our senior editor is David Kestenbaum. Our executive editor is Emmanuel Berry. Just thanks today to the entire LeBaron family: D. Lee Blyfus, Madely Tickner, P. J. Marc, Keith Vanden Bosh, and kusports. Com for a video of Coach McGuire's speech. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always to our program's co founder, Mr. Troy Maletia. He was just cast in a local theater, production of Annie in the Little Roll. So he actually had lived his way through a lot of the show, including Annie's biggest and most famous song, Which He Delivered As.


That's cool. What are we going to do tomorrow?


I'm Eric Glass. Back next week with more stories of this American life. Next week on the podcast of This American Life. For months, we've been talking to Youssef. It was the same questions running through his head all the time about the same people.


What about Hadil? What about Hibba? What about Salsabil? What about my wife and the children, my mother?


Youssef has been moving his family from one place to another in Gaza. Now, his youngest sister is about to have a baby, and everybody may need to move again. They're all looking to Youssef to find one more place to live. That's next week on the podcast or on your local public radio station.