Chloë and her teacher, Mrs. Nugent
I went to my granddaughter Chloë's 4th grade County Fair, and ran into my own 4th grade best friend. Fifty-five years later, she's now Chloë's favorite teacher, Mrs. Nugent. She was just Karen when I knew her, way back when.
Karen lived right behind me—we shared the back gate. She was tall and I was short and her mom called us "Mutt and Jeff." (Neither of us know who Mutt and Jeff are.) Her grandma taught me to play Gin Rummy and her grandpa taught me not to lie. I'll never forget that day.
We lived close to a canal. Rumor had it that a little girl had once drowned there, and all the neighborhood kids knew we were not to cross the street or go near that fearsome place. One day I ran through the gate, through their garden, past her grandpa and into the yard. The whole family was searching for Karen's little sister Carolyn who was about three. Even Grandpa put down his shovel, pushed back his hat and hollered, "Carolyn!" through cupped hands, and came up onto the grass. "Have you seen Carolyn?" he asked me.
Thinking it would be funny, I said, "Yes. I saw her floating down the canal." You can imagine how that little joke went over. Grandpa grabbed hold of my wrists and walloped me on the backside. "Have you ever heard the story of the boy who cried 'Wolf"?" he asked. Obviously I hadn't. He sat me right down and told it to me, and then informed me that lying was wrong and I better not do it again. He made me promise.
I've never forgotten that incident—whenever it comes to mind I cringe. (It reminds me that I was often a brat.) Carolyn was eventually found and things settled down; Grandpa went back to the garden and we went inside to have some of Mrs. Thatcher's tapioca pudding.
Looking back, I'm grateful I grew up in a time when adults took responsibility for teaching kids how to behave. I deserved that spanking and I'm glad he taught me a lesson I still remember. Now his granddaughter is teaching my granddaughter lessons she'll always remember, with a softer touch. (Chloë is definitely not a brat and already knows how to behave.)
Who was your best friend in 4th grade? Do you keep in touch? What would you talk about if you got together? Write down a memory!
Do you have a favorite day? Mine is Oma Day! Benji came over for an Oma Day and entertained me for a couple of hours. I'd heard he loves playing baseball, and has a powerful swing, so I thought I'd let him tell me about it.
Oma: So, Benji, do you like sports?
Benji: Yes! I do!
Oma: What's your favorite sport?
Benji: Well ... I think ... golf.
Oma: Wow! Do you play golf?
Benji: Not now, but I used to when I was a little kid.
He carried around a tiny helicopter the whole time he was here, and when he was leaving, his mom told him to put it away. "Can I keep it?" he asked. "Maybe you can borrow it," I said. "When you come again, you can bring it back and trade it in for something else." He looked at it and then glanced in the Cousin's Clubhouse at the other toys. "Actually, I want to trade it in right now," he said.
Benji and his cousins in the Cousin's Clubhouse
"…writing comes more easily if
you have something to say."
you have something to say."
One secret of writing: collect things to say:
- Carry a notebook and jot down kidspeak. Kids are funny.
- Listen in on conversations in the check-out line, in restaurants, and the beauty salon.
- Imagine what you would have said if you were rude, or clever, or funny.
The other secret of writing: write!
Put on some bum glue and sit down at your computer and make those fingers go.
If you don't write, you'll never be a writer. It's that simple.
If you do, you will.
Want to read ahead? I've got a book list:
- How to Write the Story of Your Life, by Frank P. Thomas
- The Autobiographer's Handbook, edited by Jennifer Traig
- Legacy, by Linda Spence
- Tracing Your Family History, by Anthony Adolph
- For All Time, by Charley Kempthorne