Friday, September 2, 2011

Walls Come Down

This week, with Labor Day and the end of summer rapidly approaching, we asked you to write about a season of change for your character or you.

.He walked through the door, a wrinkled shirt and holey jeans, his hair a little wild. His walk was  hesitant, and his eyes fixed to the floor. She stood near her desk, frazzled with early morning preparation for a busy day ahead. Her eye caught him and she stood. Eager to welcome him she walked in his direction.


A quick glance revealed a face she has seen before and the wall that stood between them both. Invisible, yet solid. She managed a quick and simple smile, gently touching his arm she led him to the desk he would call home.

The others started rolling in.

Full of gossip and idle chatter.

His wall stood firm and might have grown a bit taller as they greeted "the new kid" excitedly. New faces always seemed to raise the electric charge they already had buzzing around them.

The teacher saw Braden as he entered in. The memory of his walls and his eyes that had been cold and missing of life which had now been it was him she chose as Alan's buddy for the day. Hoping to pass that life from one to another.

The day went as she expected. The work revealed his struggle..and his lack of concern or belief it would or could change. He had all the signs showing he had already quit, and was just waiting for the day and age when he could make it official. A look through the records later gave evidence of all she had inferred from the day.

No stability.
Many schools.
Behaviors first of acting out,
moving to shutting down.
Poor grades.
Attendance problems.
Single parent working two jobs to do her best.

These were the blocks that built the world, and colored his eyes to gray. The effects left a lifeless student, too young to quit, but the reality was that he had.

So, she spent weeks, choosing the just-right-books and the moments to make her moves. Her goal, make him safe...and later he could learn. The characters she read of reflected him, the comments from the class showed compassion, concern and care.

He sat still, silent, eyes averted.
But still she believed he heard.

Minutes turned to hours, hours turned to days. Weeks passed by and the weather changed.

And then...he walked to the front at their quiet reading time. He picked up a book from the chalk traythat she had already read. He open and closed it. Brushed the pages with his fingers. With his head a little higher, he walked toward her. He, at first, just stood there.

She waited.

And then his eyes looked into hers. She gave that gentle smile.

"Would you mind reading me? "

And that is what she did. They sat just close enough for him to see the pages. She read in that way that took you there, and took you where you needed to be. The words became real, and you became one.

When she closed the book his eyes met hers, and from where I sat I saw his smile. I saw the first of the wall come down.

Sadly, he left three weeks later. Many blocks of the wall still there. I often wondered what happened to him...

I am hoping another teacher who cared had found him. I am hoping they brought that whole wall down.

Inside of him was a treasure, a hard world had buried it there. He only needed a little extra time and work, and it could be revealed.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Looking Back on My Time with Nancy

As a writing teacher, I often have my students write memoir/nonfiction pieces. In the beginning, most students want to write strictly about themselves.
One of the lessons I teach them is that other people help shape who we are through their words to us, their actions, or their lack of action.
Your assignment for this week is to write about a memory of yourself WITH someone else.
Need a way to start?
This is what I give my students…
His/her name was ______________________ and looking back now, I realize….
Remember, it’s MEMOIR, so it needs to be about YOUR experience with this person and it needs to be TRUE.
Let’s keep it to 600 words or less.

Her name was Nancy, and looking back now I realize she was one of the bright spots in my shadowed world. She was my mother in law.

The first time I met her I was 15. And as a typical 15 year old I didn't think she liked me. So, of course her son decided to share that with her. The next time I saw here she handed me a bouquet of flowers. And from then on, I knew not only did she like me, but she loved me.

She was a beautiful woman. My daughter reminds me so much of her. She had this exotic beauty. It is pretty amazing all that we experienced together. I saw so many sides of her over the years. I was her friend, her daughter, and her daughter in law all wrapped in one.

She had a mischievous side. She would get this smile and you knew she was up to something. She had a serious side, a quiet side, a silly side...and a deeply spiritual side.

It is that spiritual side that impacted my world more than any other. She wasn't perfect, she made mistakes, she made poor choices....but she always showed her love of God, and when she needed forgiveness for those poor choices she was open and honest about it.

As a young girl I was very confused by things that were spiritual. She saw that in me. She took the time to share with me, allowed me to challenge her and allowed me to feel and express my frustration with all the different ideas that had been presented to me. She was patient and took the time to walk me through the confusion. She presented the greatest gift of all to me...she showed me and helped me to understand that it wasn't about churches, rules, was about a relationship. She showed me in words, and in deeds.

She stood by me as I grew in that walk. She was there to pick up the pieces when I made the wrong turns. Nancy always loved me through. She loved me through the struggles of a young marriage and its mistakes, even though it was her son I was married to. An outsider looking in wouldn't know that I was the daughter in law, they would be certain I was hers.

One of my most spiritual moments in my life was at the end of her life. We all gathered in the hospital room. She had hung on until we all arrived. And then the singing began. Beautiful songs covered the air. A spirit filled that room, you could feel it all around you. A peace entered into the sorrow and loss we were experiencing, and the smile on her lips as she left us helped us to know she was entering into a place she was ready for....she was headed home.

Nancy left so much behind for me. Even now, divorced from her son, and all the scars left from it. Nancy resides, her spirit and soul, deep in my heart. Her love still speaks to me. I look forward to the day when I can run into her arms again and thank her for all she has meant to me.