The Prune: Here’s a column your parents won’t mind you reading


by Todd Sharp

Writing and creating art can be a messy process, at times perceived with misunderstanding and false assumptions, other times glorious insight and new, clear, fresh, funny perspective.

I’ve censored my own stories, taking out identifying bits of personal tales to protect people’s identities.

Storytelling traditionally comes in anecdotes, innuendo and metaphor. Paragraphs, sentences and phrases can be made up, contain pure fact, interpretations of reality, or a big sloppy mixture of them all.

Even with my self-directed censorship, I try to retell the truth that resides inside the story and provide readers new ideas to incorporate freely into their own lives.

Like a lot of kids, my son was extremely curious. His voracious appetite for anything written kept us reading to him and he read himself — all the time with a book in his lap.

Sitting in the Nitty Gritty in Madison munching down burgers with my dad on Fathers Day 16 years ago, my 4-year- old son picked up the Onion. The Onion was a weekly satirical newspaper filled with great humor and biting wisdom. (Now it’s online and has videos of someone else reading.)

After he ran off to the bathroom, I looked over at his paper and realized he was reading a somewhat risqué story.

A little panicked about overexposing my young son to twisted satire, I asked my dad if he thought it was okay for me to let him read the Onion?

My father gave me some of the best advice. He told me it’s better to educate and explain to a child what they are reading than it is to explain why you’re censoring what they read and learn.

Through the satire of the Onion, my dad taught me one of the most important lessons in my parenting journey.

I recently read Laura Ingalls Wilder had lost some favor for having written about Indians in a disparaging tone. I don’t agree with what she said, but think we need to keep her story intact and discourage censoring or editing the disturbing images, so readers can discuss those generational mistakes and avoid making them again.

It’s important to understand and study others’ perceptions and experiences, even if they are messed up.

I grew up listening to my parents’ music but, like so many teenagers, pivoted and started to like my own generation’s music.

Paul Simon wrote, “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.” These heroes, many times, can be polar opposite to the parents’ taste.

Years ago, I found my dad cranking up one of my late ’70s generation’s favorites, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” double album, at full volume while sitting in a ladder-back chair facing the speakers in the middle of the living room one afternoon.

Rather than censoring my taste on the basis of his own, he spent the time to figure out what was going on in my head and to tried to understand what I liked about this story and harmony.

“The Wall” is about a boy building a wall up around himself from the rest of society and feeling isolated. I’m sure my dad understood the metaphor in the music more than I did.

Creation and inspiration of art is interpreted through an individual’s personal filter.

Like my dad, I hope to keep my mind wide open to let in more of the multi-hued spectrum of ideas and opinions.

And to keep creating, uncensored.

Editor’s note: Todd Sharp is an open-minded fellow who we never, ever censor except when he expresses opinions with which we even mildly disagree. When not removing tape from his mouth, he sells advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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