I’ve started this story a dozen different ways.
With a line from a crabby reader: Maybe you should give up writing in the paper. …
With anecdotes about my journalistic brushes with fame (few) or with danger (far between).
With gratitude for readers who stuck with me (you fabulous few) and regret for my (many) mistakes.
But I never was good at opening lines. Or nut grafs — those succinct sentences that summarize what a story is supposed to be about.
There’s a reason for that. I never really knew what was at the heart of a column until it was finished.
That’s what the writing was for — figuring that out.
Or trying to.
I’m going to miss that, probably more than I know.
I’m leaving the world’s best job at the end of August. It’s a great time to close my notebook. We’re emptying our cubicles as I write, readying ourselves for when the building's new owners take over and bulldoze the newsroom.
I hate moving. And the pandemic made me reconsider life and work and the pace at which I want to carry on with it, arms full of grandbabies, watching a weary world opening up before my eyes.
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do. I’ll spend a few months figuring it out and dipping into savings, too young for Social Security but old enough for cheap Affordable Care Act insurance. (Thanks, Obama.)
I came to the Lincoln Star in 1994, a 34-year-old mother of three, three credits shy of a journalism degree.
My first story was about the magic of Santa Claus, stripped across the top of the front page.
My mom clipped it out and stuck it in a box.
Eight months later, I landed a spot at the Journal Star after the Star and the Journal — with their two personalities and delivery times — merged. My new editor sent me out to write about theater and restaurants and, after a failed stint as the Beef State’s only vegetarian dining critic, a new-new editor made me the Lincoln Life columnist.
I thought I’d died and gone to newspaper heaven.
This is the spot for a bunch of cliches about work not feeling like work and getting paid to do what I love — true and true — and a recitation of the world-changing events I’ve had a front-row seat for. (Or in the words of much-wiser editors: “for which I’ve had a front-row seat.”)
There were a lot of those.
The Oklahoma City bombing came first and it set the tone for all that would follow. Editors emerging from their morning meeting in the glass-walled conference room and turning on the TV to watch the aftermath unfold.
I watched wide-eyed as assignments were given and reporters went to work.
It wasn’t what I expected, no stopping the presses, no loosening of ties, just people putting out a paper.
Day after day through tragedy and national heartache and car crashes and city budgets and football (always football).
Last week, someone tagged me on Facebook. (I was late to Facebook and once wrote a derisive column about the whole concept of friends-you-didn’t-know. Now I’m old and Facebook knows all my secrets — and what kind of shoes I’m considering buying — so we can’t break up.)
The “friend” who tagged me included a column I’d written about a woman he considered his second mother, back in the days when all the neighborhood moms looked out for all the neighborhood kids.
That mom’s name was Millie Kreuzberg and she’d recently passed away. My 2007 column told the story of Millie’s second-place finish in Lincoln’s adult spelling bee the year before and her desire to take first place in the next contest, all the studying and the memorizing and the pain of finishing second.
The column took me back to Millie’s living room with the 80-year-old grandmother and her rosary and her crochet basket and spelling books.
And it made me wonder what had happened.
Had she won?
Had she taken away the hardbound unabridged dictionary, the prize for first place?
For the next 10 weeks, I’m going to dig out a column from each of the last 25 years. I’ll write a postscript to each one.
I already have an answer to the mystery of Millie’s spelling bee fortunes.
Stick around, I’ll fill you in soon.
Five Cindy Lange-Kubick columns from an upside-down year
Columns from an upside-down year: Soups and scones
This story is about nostalgia -- so many of us, packed so close together in the pursuit of good soup and scones. It gives me hope that those days will return.
Columns from an upside-down year: Remembering Chuck E. Cheese
Sometimes it's the little things that put a lump in your throat, like not knowing that the last time you took your sweet grandson to the germ-infested arcade parlor he loved would be the last time.
Columns from an upside-down year: Dying alone
So much pain during the pandemic, but none worse than the grief of families and health care workers as so many die alone in the hospital.
Columns from an upside-down year: An ugly baby?
Who doesn't love an ugly baby story?
Columns from an upside-down year: The Angel in Room 255
A story about hope and goodness and friendship at a time when people needed to hear about the angels of this world.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK
In this Series
- 24 updates