Meet Russell Baskett
Russell Baskett is a co-founder, President and Executive Director of SML Good Neighbors, Inc., a non-profit founded in 2007. The program provides enrichment programs for elementary school-age children from families with limited resources. Russ and his wife, Sarah live at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia. Prior to retiring in 2001, he was a professor of life sciences and environmental studies. The Good Neighbors work is his new vocation and passion.
A Sample of Russell’s Writing
It was Christmas afternoon and my wife and I were going to our daughter Sydney’s house for Christmas dinner. She answered the phone, “Hi, Daddy. This place is the kingdom of silliness and the kids say the prince-of-silly is coming.”
The prince they refer to is me! What a reputation I have with my kids and grandchildren. To an outsider, it may sound disrespectful to call your father or grandfather “silly.” Not to me — I hear it as a term of endearment; it’s an expression of love and value.
When our three daughters — now 47, 42 and 37 — get together, the reminiscences always return to: “Remember when Daddy used to drive us to school when we were little? Remember the silly, funny, nonsensical songs and poems he would make up?
Remember how he would recite ‘The Gettysburg Address’ in the voice of Richard Nixon? Remember the one about Yankee Doodle?” Then one of them will break in to song:
Yankee Doodle went to town
ridin’ on an ole blue gown.
Went round a corner with his foot on the gas,
car turned over
cause he was goin’ too fast.
Then, through the tears of laughter, someone will say, “Oh my gosh; that was so much fun; what great memories.”
Now when I go to their homes, the grandchildren can’t wait to tell me their latest “silly” story or show me a book of dumb jokes. Maybe it’s in the genes — from father to daughters to grandkids; I hope so. When I am around my daughters and grandchildren, the silliness spontaneously returns; I can’t stop it! We all laugh and roll our eyes when the silliness invades our spaces like an infectious disease. The silliness reminds me of the humor of Steve Martin or George Carlin.
We begin playing with words, putting them in different contexts that change their meaning. A phrase like “square root” creates a very different mental image for a mathematician, gardener and cosmetologist. Imagine playing with these images with one-liners. We are overcome with silliness once it starts.
So, for me, the word silly is not dumb, meaningless or unworthy. It is synonymous with love, and that’s a good thing.
I have this movie in my head about what will happen when I come to the end of my days. I must warn you – this is silly. Gabe (this is what we call our friend, the angel Gabriel) and Andrew, from the TV series “Touched By an Angel,” are conducting a Heavenly Autopsy on me. Gabe turns to Andrew and says, “Just as I thought, Russ died from terminal silliness.” Andrew replies, “This one’s a keeper. Welcome home, friend.”
What Russell says about WordPlay
“I attended Maureen’s class—Spinning Words into Gold—in October, 2011 at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Although I have written volumes over the years as a teacher and academic administrator, this class opened doors for me to new, creative, and imaginative ways to approach writing. I don’t think I will ever be able to write or read the “old way” again. Thanks, Maureen—the new way is a lot more fun.”