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Cast Spotlight: Christine Morris

Christine received her B.A. in English from the College of the Holy Cross and wore what her mother deemed “a smart blue suit” to a job interview. She landed “between the lions” at the New York Public Library, where she logged lots of miles navigating that two-city-blocks-long landmark. She headed up the coast to work at a social service agency in Boston and spent many Saturday nights in her twenties as a telephone counselor for Boston’s Parental Stress Line.

Christine worked on the Communications team at United Way of Greater Rochester, spent 10+ years at home with her three children, Fiona (15), Annabeth (13) and John (11), and currently spends her days at a cooperative nursery school, promoting good vibes among three and four year olds. She has been married to her husband Jim for 16 years and remembers very clearly the first time their eyes met.

What do you love about Rochester?

My husband and I love to kick-start the summer by walking downtown to the Jazz Festival with our kids. We have fun weaving through the crowd on Gibbs Street to catch a glimpse of the open air “Jazz Street Stage” acts, stepping into RoCo to gaze at the floor to ceiling artistry of the 6X6 exhibit (and vote on our favorites), waiting in line at the food trucks for a shared taste of poutine, catching Trombone Shorty’s act, and happily heading for home, crossing over the Clinton Avenue pedestrian walkway with our fellow Jazz Fest pilgrims.

I love the crowds that turn out in the Highland Park neighborhood to cheer on the Flower City Half Marathon runners as they make their way up the Goodman Street hill.

The cowbell noisemakers, the megaphones, the DJ, the kids high-fiving the runners, the inspiring messages magic-markered onto poster board, the determined athletes drinking in the affirmations from the crowd…It is a spirit-lifting sight!

On warm nights, my husband and I like to sit under the tendrils of hops at Swiftwater Brewing Company. He favors a flight of four; I am partial to the IPA #9.

What piece of writing has moved or inspired you?

Soon after my first child was born, a friend gave me a gift subscription to a literary magazine called Brain, Child. Each essay was so well-crafted and tightly executed that I traded sleep for quiet moments with those beautifully written pieces. I felt fortified by those writers.

I tend to lean toward a “micro” approach to literature. I am reminded of that Cesare Pavese quote “We do not remember days…we remember moments.” I have been gripped by Willy Loman’s wife Linda pleading that “attention must be paid” in Death of a Salesman; King Lear’s crushingly despairing “Oh, thou'lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never” as he laments Cordelia’s lifeless body; and Jane Austen’s delightfully dry narration, as in “the hair was curled, and the maid sent away, and Emma sat down to think and be miserable.” The exception to this “micro” slant is any poem by Billy Collins. Every word is a purposeful, accessible gem. Collins is a two-time Poet Laureate (!), and he did not begin honing his craft until his forties.

What is one of your favorite parenting moments, as a parent or as a daughter/son?

When my children were younger, our family’s compass arrow often seemed to point in the direction of the mailbox around the corner from our house. Over the years, we emerged from strollers and scrambled out of wagons, eager to send off a bundle of birthday invitations dazzling with sticker-adorned envelopes. We bounded off bikes, scooters and sleds to vie over who would pop off the latest watercolor-saturated work of art to an admiring grandparent. We stuffed our jacket pockets with response cards for wedding celebrations and tucked graduation cards for New England nieces in the crook of our arms. Year after year, I lifted my mitten-adorned children up to dispatch a hearty stack of holiday greetings one prized envelope at a time into that mail slot mouth. All of these mailbox moments have been tiny joy-filled ventures that fill my heart with gratitude.

That same mailbox served as the launching pad for each of my children as they learned to ride their bikes without training wheels. My husband and I invested lots of time giving confidence-building instruction alongside the mailbox before guiding a wobbling two-wheeler down the smoothest squares of cement on our block. It feels to me as though that mailbox is my faithful cohort, noting right along with me as my children pile their bikes in a heap to send off our latest dispatch, that all their training wheels are long gone and not one of them needs to stand on tip toe to open the mail slot anymore. In a closer-than-I-realize moment, I will be shipping my three parcels off to some unknown land. I will send them mail adorned with “LOVE” postage stamps, and I will remember our mailbox moments.

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