August 31, 2005

On Assignment: Updated*

*I found favor in my professor eyes and received a 10/10.

A piece was required by my Advanced Grammar professor asking me to "think about my early experiences with reading and writing" and to then write a one page paper that explains or shows how my "past experiences with reading and writing affect your current attitudes about grammar."

My offering:

Proof of Life

I can still feel the ballpoint pen navigating the knolls of the textured wall, the wobbly, blue lines inscriptive of my existence. Having won the handwriting award out of 42 other competing first graders, I was disappointed that it did not look as neat, as crisp on the paint as it did on my papers. My mother was the first to find it. My gorgeous, young mother in overalls and halter, her milk chocolate hair falling down her shoulders, brought me into her bedroom and pointed, just above the baseboard.

“Did you do that?” she queried.

“No,” I replied, my voice flat. I recall wondering why she was insulting me with such a question. Of course I had done it; no one else had award-winning penmanship but me. Why had she given me the opportunity to lie? It was simply irresistible.

“So, you did not take a pen and write your name?” She was doing it again. I rubbed the side of my nose. My hands smelled of crayons, dirt, sweat, and orange peanut butter crackers. “I think I did.”

Muttering something about my being incorrigible, she left the room. I started to follow but was told to “stay right where I was.” She returned with a scrub brush and pail. The sickening institutional odor of pine cleaner filled the air. Stifling a retch, I plunged my hands into the water.

I scrubbed for hours I am sure, but the oil-base didn’t want to let go of my masterpiece. I mindlessly drew the bristles back and forth, occasionally stopping to examine the wrinkles on my hands, the chewed skin around my fingernails. Mother reappeared. She squatted to examine my progress. Still there, mocking us both, “(insert my name here)” persisted in all its glory.

Every night my mother and I read on her bed. She either hadn’t the patience for picture books or felt them beneath her, and so insisted on reading chapter books, sometimes a few pages at a time to keep my wandering mind corralled. She frequently told me that short sentences and big pictures produced shorter attention spans, small minds, limited vocabulary, and she was sure it altered ones genetics to be grammatically challenged. Some nights we took turns reading. Words that I stumbled over, she insisted that I sound out. Tonight we were reading from The Incredible Journey. The ritual was for me to repeat the author’s name before we commenced. I knew that the author was forever connected to her work, her words, by attaching her name to it. The way to immortalize oneself was to make sure that no one ever forgot that by which one was called, recognized, known.

“Sheila Burnford is the author,” I stated.

I saw her eyes flicker, looking back and forth into each of my own. In that moment, I knew she had forgiven me, for both writing my name in ink on the wall and lying about it. Somewhere beneath layers of latex lies proof of my existence, that I was once a child with perfect penmanship on her way to the refinement of syntax and grammar… and prevarication.

Posted by Rae at August 31, 2005 07:06 AM

that was beautiful!

Posted by: amelie at August 31, 2005 07:24 AM

I LOVE IT!!!!! What a beautiful illustration of the importance of responsible parenting. Your mother did you an incredible favor. Now if you could only convince the modern day parent to do this.

Posted by: Stacy at August 31, 2005 09:06 AM

Beautifully written, Rae! If you wrote a book, I would definitely be in line to buy it. I truly love your writing style and the substance it contains. :-)

Posted by: Jenn at August 31, 2005 02:13 PM

Awwwww, gals :D You sure made my day. Now, let's hope that my prof finds it "A"cceptable ;)

Posted by: Rae at August 31, 2005 03:23 PM

Lovely, Rae. I'm with Jenn.

Posted by: Altar Girl at August 31, 2005 03:30 PM

congrats on the 10/10! definitely more than well deserved, and count me as standing in line as well!

Posted by: amelie at September 3, 2005 11:22 PM

Damn, you're good!

Posted by: H. at September 6, 2005 01:33 PM

I'm a fan- beautiful writing

Posted by: irenepuccio at September 6, 2005 09:02 PM

Very Nice,

I stop in every week or so whan I have time to read a few local and national blogs.

Once again you make me wish I had the ability to think and write with 1/100000 of you skill.

Just wanted you to know that while I am a lurker and do not comment very often you are always appreciated.

Posted by: South Jordan Dad at September 10, 2005 12:04 AM
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