I have been a bit overtaken by teaching and all the little blessings it brings. From committee meetings to unexpected answers on student school climate surveys, life has been a bit of a blur lately. I have not been in touch with myself for a couple of weeks, so I have had no desire to write here or anywhere else, except for those writings I have done along with my students. Now I find myself with a desire to write, but with a full plate of grading today. I am going to post a couple of snippets from some quick writes I’ve done with my students the past couple of weeks. They are by no means even close to being final products, nor do some of them even make any sense. Not my finest writing moments ever.
Here is a bit from an assignment I asked my English 10 students to write. They had to pretend they were the opposite gender and describe someone who was either famous or an adult that had influence in their lives. We’re reading My Antonia and the book is written by Willa Cather, a woman, from the perspective of the protagonist Jim Burden, a boy. Jim describes lots of folks, but many of the main, and even the supporting, characters are women. So here I am speaking from an adolescent boy’s point of view about his English teacher.
Everyday she teaches us something new, and I feel as if I am learning so much my brain will explode, but the things she teaches me sometimes don’t interest me in the least. We talk about feelings and stuff like that, and I don’t want to be any more in touch with my feelings than I already am. The other guys in my class already make fun of me, and call me a wimp or worse. I want to read stories about cars and sports and war, but all we ever get to read about is stuff like My Antonia with a girl working like a man, and I get all confused about gender and things like that.
I do love this teacher though. When my girlfriend got pregnant, she was the first person I told. She was warm and caring, helping us through the whole nine months until we decided to give our child up for adoption. When I failed math class and had to retake it, she found a tutor to help me so that I could graduate on time. Her kindness and her spirit show through her twinkling eyes and her rosy cheeks. She isn’t exceptionally beautiful or especially well-dressed, but the way she treats her students makes her particularly endearing.
Here is one from another writing assignment in the same class and from the same book. The task was to describe the earliest place you could remember living.
I woke up to the sound of roosters crowing every morning, and as I picked the sleep from my eyes I could smell whatever good things my mother was cooking for breakfast. Usually we had oatmeal and bacon. The oatmeal smelled maple and brown sugar sweet, and the bacon filled the air with salty goodness. Every morning I would look out my window to see if the ducks and chickens had run out into the road again, and I would slide my hand out from under the pillow to reach for whatever house pet might be nearby. Typically, there would be a dog or a cat sleeping right next to my bed waiting to lick my hand as it hung over the side of the bed.Occasionally, a car would pass by the house, or a big truck filled with trash on its way to the landfill. Once I got a little older and we had sheep and goats, the garbage men would honk the horn to see the sheep run across the pasture. To them it was a game, but as my little brother and I held the two legs on one side and my father held the other two of our prize breeding ram, we weren’t laughing. We were slowly and painstakingly carrying him to the woods to bury him. The horn honking had caused him to have a heart attack. He was heavy enough that it took all three of us to move his bloating body from one side of the pasture to the other.
And last but not least, the one from our writing club writing prompt. It’s about breakfast, which I love. The prompt was to defend one meal, which is the best, and should be the only, meal of the day. Um, hands down breakfast.
My favorite meal, hands down, is breakfast. Whenever I travel I like to find places that serve vegan breakfast, and then I go there and try everything I think I can fit in my belly. Before, when I wasn’t vegan, I would just pick any greasy-spoon diner and order a huge amount of food and eat as much of it as possible.
One of my favorite breakfasts was when I took Becky to Minneapolis to the Bad Waitress and we sat at the bar by the kitchen, watching the waitresses pick up the food and deliver it to tables. I love to watch the short order cooks line up the tickets and call out their orders to each other. The timing is impeccable and the atmosphere is calculated and busy. The Bad Waitress is a strange restaurant because the waitresses don’t do much except bring your food to the table, and at first I though that’s why it’s called the Bad Waitress, because the waitresses are substandard. Like a play on words, a joke about their abilities, but it’s called Bad Waitress as in the 1980s and 1990s version of bad, like good. In fact, more like awesome.
Calling the place bad (like good) is a mild overstatement, because the food is amazing, but the service is, well, half serve yourself. When you sit down at your table, the waitress gives you a tablet and a pencil. You mark your choices, write down any special orders or modifications, note your table character which is a female villain or cartoon, then take your order up to the cashier who rings you up, probably because it takes forever to get your food, and they want to make sure you’ve paid for it before they go making food for you while you leave half way through the middle. While you are at the register paying through the nose, a typical breakfast costs about $15 or $20, for the heavenly food that is about to pass through your gastrointestinal tract, they begin your drinks. You wait for them and take them back to your seat with you. Once you get back to your seat, the waitress bring you your food. See, there is no bad (as in good) in that waitress.
But the food is fantastic. The last time I was there, I had a breakfast sandwich with vegan breakfast sausage and spinach and salsa, I think. And the time before, when I was only vegetarian, I had a breakfast sandwich with the vegan sausage, cheese, and a hard fried egg. Becky had Eggs Benedict and she said it was some of the best Eggs Benedict she’d ever had. I don’t like saucy eggs and rich, creamy food, so I wouldn’t know a good Benedict from a bad one, but it looked fairly decent. They make all of their own bread and biscuits, and all of their produce and farm products come from local growers and farmers.
During that same trip, we went to another local favorite breakfast hangout, and I had an amazing set of pancakes that were covered with bananas, berries, honey, and almonds. I begged off the granola because Becky has a fatal peanut allergy and the granola had peanuts in it. Since I was sitting next to her in the booth, I didn’t think it would be very nice to order something that might kill her, and I didn’t want to deal with the excitement that her allergic reaction might bring. She and her sister Ann, who was with us this time around, both ordered omelets. The omelets were huge and filled with delicious looking vegetables and some, in my opinion, not so delicious looking meat. The food that caught my eye, however, was the oatmeal that the woman with the annoying child who was sitting next to us was eating. The bowl looked like a feeding trough and was just as full. Oats, layered with granola, topped with yogurt, under berries and bananas. I lusted after that oatmeal. My heart burned as it hadn’t in a long time. Over oatmeal.
So, you can plainly see I’ve been writing, just not here, not for you. I have all sorts of other things I’d love to say, but 46 short stories, 46 test over The Outsiders, five chapters of My Antonia, planning and creating two anonymous email lists so I can email parents, and 16 persuasive essays care calling my name. Let’s see how much of this I get done today.
ahhh, my heart burns over oatmeal too. 🙂 i’ve returned to it recently; i forgot just how wonderful it can be, simple or fully loaded with fruit and nuts and honey and…oh boy.