The TueDo List: Cold War Playlist + Refugee Histories + Mullet Challenge
And a new NKOTB video with a very '80s vibe
📖 READ: Sandra Oh once sang backup vocals for Alanis Morissette. Do not mess with the online knitting community. The B-52s deserve a jukebox musical. Who needs a pep talk from a kindergartner? What it’s like to deliver a baby panda. Worrying about my parents’ safety is a permanent state. TIME’s women of the year. Behind the Twitter bot that calls out disingenuous IWD tweets.
👀 LOOK: A phone for people who hate texting. NKOTB made a video with Salt-N-Pepa, Rick Astley, and En Vogue. Art made from emojis. Russian bear steps on Ukrainian Lego. 120 orange statues celebrating women in STEM.
🤣 LOL: Would you get a mullet in exchange for free beer? I do not like work, Ma’am-I-Am. Custom scented candles for every occasion. Morrissey waiting for a few more people to show up before canceling gig.
Now: Renée Zellweger is almost unrecognizable in The Thing About Pam (NBC), and we’re loving Our Flag Means Death, Taikka Watiti’s “pirate comedy” with an all-star cast (HBO Max), and Taylor Tomlinson’s Look at You comedy special (Netflix).
Friday: The latest Pixar movie, Turning Red. (Disney+)
Saturday: Zoë Kravitz hosts SNL. (NBC)
STORY: How My Parents Explained Their Survival as Refugees
By Liz Thompson
As the child of parents who escaped the Russian occupation of Hungary, the terrible events in Ukraine hit very close to home. I grew up hearing stories about the Hungarian Uprising and how my family fled. One that haunts me: my maternal grandmother crawled under a hail of bullets and lost her slippers in the middle of a farmer’s field. When she turned back to retrieve them, a man next to her called her foolish and crawled ahead. After finding her slippers, my grandmother realized that same man had been shot in the head.
My grandmother’s stories gave me nightmares as a kid, but it was the way she made me feel like I was right there, experiencing it alongside her, that made me want to become a storyteller. Stories about hiding in haystacks from the Russians, running at night/ sleeping during the day, sharing food with other refugees — all of those details helped me better understand the horrors that the people of Ukraine must be going through today.
However my mother, who was a teenager when her family escaped, never talked about it – until 2009.
That year, my 10-year-old son asked his grandfather if he would speak to his class about his experiences during a Heritage Day celebration (he had done something similar for my daughter’s girl scout troop). This time, he’d be speaking to a much larger group of kids (two 4th grade classes combined) so my mother agreed to tag along for moral support.
My son introduced his grandparents: “This is my Mama and Papa [his names for his grandparents] and they escaped Hungary in 1956 and they’re gonna talk to you about immigration.”
His classmates had questions:
“What was the scariest thing that happened to you?"
My father had a colorful way of manipulating the English language and was very rarely known to be at a loss for words.
"Vell...you zee...vhut you keeds don't know iz...I mean...eeet iz harrrd forrr me...forrr us..."
His eyes began to glaze over, as he tried to speak, but I could see that he was getting all choked up and having trouble finding "the right words" and a few of the children giggled as he visibly began to shake.
"What Mr. K. means is,” my Mom clarified, “staying alive was scary."
I almost didn't recognize my mother's voice. As the Ying to my father's Yang for nearly 46 years of marriage, she was usually comfortable with quietly observing from the back. But not that day.
My mother continued. "I was only 14 and can still remember the sound of the tanks rolling into town, late that night.”
She paused, realizing the classroom had gone dead silent.
I interjected from the back of the classroom, trying to change the tone "How many of you have ever gone hiking?"
A couple of kids jumped — I guess they didn't see me quietly standing in the back, as I began to ask questions — and then many of them quickly raised their hands.
"How many of you go hiking in a forest?"
A couple of hands go up.
"Without a flashlight."
One hand, raised. Seriously, this one kid had to be related to Survivorman.
"Okay, how many of you guys have gone hiking, in a forest, at night, without a flashlight, no coat, barefoot, in December?"
This time, even Survivorman's son had to put his hand down and, now that I had their attention — I shared my grandmother’s story about the shoes.
"Did you have a machine gun?"
It’s when Survivorman’s son eagerly asked his question when I started to think that perhaps this wasn't such a great idea, after all.
"No, I didn't, but the Freedom Fighters did and all we wanted to do was get to the Austrian border where it was safe."
My mother needed a moment, so I passed around my father's immigration papers issued in Salzburg (many mentions of the Sound of Music made, here) which gained him admittance into the U.S.
"Why did you pick America?"
My father said that it was because he loved going to the theater and watching American movies, old westerns about cowboys in particular — how they roamed the wide-open ranges, free and without any borders, or papers.
For my mom?
"Because it was far away from Russia."
Then, the bell rang.
"Would your parents mind moving over to our classroom and staying a little longer?" asked my son’s teacher
And with that, the teacher canceled the rest of her lesson plans for the day. Another hour later, my parents were exhausted, but in a therapeutic sort of way, even if the kids didn't “get” most of what was being said.
Well, that’s what we thought, until my parents received this note from my son’s classmate:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Katkics,
Thank you for coming and telling us how hard immigration was because I thought it was easy to go through. I liked the pictures you showed us because they were old, nice and interesting.
They received an entire pile of “Thank You” notes, including this one:
Thank you for coming and explaining how difficult your journey was when you came here. I hope the rest of your lives aren't difficult like the old days. Stay out of trouble.
Yeah, I think they got it.
My mother, who had never talked to me about leaving Hungary, opened up in front of a classroom of kids in a way they could understand. She helped them see why they should care about other people. So I’m handing down my family stories to my kids and grandkids, in order to foster empathy and understanding, to make younger generations understand that someone else's pain is as meaningful as our own.
Tell us: What stories have your parents shared that gave you insight into something today?
TUENIGHT 10: Liz Gumbinner
Age: Old enough to be really good at Ms. Pac-Man.
Basic bio: Liz Gumbinner is an ad agency creative director, writer, co-host of the Spawned parenting podcast, OG mom blogger turned website publisher, activist, mom of teens, avid binge watcher, word game addict, unapologetic ‘80s music fan, and cheese aficionado. In her spare time, she’s working on a book about women supporting women.
Beyond the bio: It’s this cliché that once you hit 40 you care less about what people think about you, freeing you to live your best life, blah blah… but that’s not entirely true. It’s more accurate to say I just care about different kinds of perceptions now. I’m thinking about how I want to be remembered, whether I raised halfway decent kids, whether I left the world a little better than when I found it. I’m less concerned about what people think about my boobs.
What makes you a grown-ass lady? Being a grown-ass lady means not waiting for your life to start. If you want to buy the boots, take the trip, hang the art, eat the dessert, learn a hobby, write that letter to your long lost college friend who you miss terribly… You just go right ahead and do it.
Here’s her TueNight 10:
On the nightstand: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, What Happened by Hillary Clinton… all half read. (I’m busy!) Two sets of AirPods. A framed “I love you 3000“ card by my oldest daughter. A family portrait sketched by a friend. THC gummies my mom brought me from the Berkshires. (Hi mom.) A pair of readers (I love Izipizi). Way too many lip balms. And the perfect bedside lamp which took me years to find.
Can't stop/won't stop: Trying new things. There are just so many of them!
Thing I miss: Hugging friends without the Covid-era awkwardness of like wait, are we hugging? Can we do this? Are we back to hugging?
'80s crush: John Cusack, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson… just go ahead and pick out any guy from a Jon Hughes movie I guess.
Current crush: The guy I get to spend the rest of my life with. (I didn’t meet him until after 40.)
Last thing you lost: My AirPods. And then the day after I bought a new pair, I found the originals. That’s why I have 2 sets on my nightstand.
Best thing that happened recently: A spontaneous long weekend on vacation with my kids and stepkids. After the last few years we’ve had, water slides, roller coasters and ice cream can be surprisingly restorative. (Speaking of which, just wear the swimsuit and get in the water!)
Looking forward to: Peace for Ukraine. Passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The end of Covid. The end of institutionalized bigotry. And the next season of Stranger Things – but I’d happily put that on hold to get all of the other things first.
REPLAY: Let’s Talk About Grief
Last week Margit connected with TueNight regular and author Issa Mas to talk about her new book Grief Thoughts: Brief Anecdotes About Profound Loss and the conversation was poignant, heartfelt. Missed it? Have a watch here.
Enjoy the rest of International Women’s Day, TueNighters!