Monday, January 21, 2019

5th Grade

5th Grade

I lied. I do remember my 5th grade teacher’s name. Mrs. Medillo. She said in my school year book that I was her “busy bee reader.” I kept track of all the books I read on index cards. I had a stack of them. I didn’t know how to score the books I read more than once. It seemed a miracle that because of redistricting I was able to spend 5th grade back at my old school Driscoll, except by this time my friends had moved on. We were different on a scale that only a tween would understand. I was desperate to read a friend, a book that loved me for who I was—somewhat nerdy, existential, an optimistic fatalist.

Little Women.

I could actually see Jo staring into the depth of her grief when she opened Beth’s hope chest, where the mementos of her short life were stored. Even today, my throat catches every time I read this passage. I am Jo, the writer, smudging the outside of my finger as my hand rushes over fresh ink on the page.

Secretly I nurture a secret power.

Friday, January 18, 2019

4th Grade

4th Grade
We moved in the middle of 3rd grade, from one neighborhood to another. Yet it necessitated a switch from Driscoll Elementary to Stingley. At recess I was an outcast. There was a sign, a symbol really, by a door that we never used. I must have asked someone and they said it was a bomb shelter. What?

At Stingley I decided to read every book on the shelves in the school library. I got through the Ds. I stumble upon an old-fashion book by Nancy Barnes titled The Wonderful Year about a girl much like myself whose heart breaks when her family has to move. She also rode a bike. I read the book through once, twice, three times. I remember telling my mother about it. Here was my story, told in fiction, about another girl in another time, yet it was also about me.

In my school picture I flash a cheesy grin. I took the photographer literally when he demanded that I smile. Pinned to my jumper was a seal with a marble-size fake pearl for a body. I still have this pin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

3rd Grade

3rd Grade

No one bothered to straighten my bow. Peter Pan collars were very popular growing up. Later I would gravitate toward angular, heavily ironed collars. In high school I’d sew my own clothes. But for now I was stuck with whatever my mother picked out for me. One time she took me shopping at Elder-Beerman’s where I was forced to browse the chubby girl section. It took a while, but eventually I would attempt to assert some autonomy over my clothes choices. Mostly I wore hand-me-downs from my sister Nancy who was only one year older.

Case in point: 

Though I was a slow reader, books became very important to me. My teacher (I cannot remember a single teacher’s name) read Charlotte’s Web to the class. I can still hear the sing-song back-and-forth lyricism in her voice as she read the scene of the kids on the tire swing in the barn. I was confused by the ending because up to that point no one had ever died in a book I’d read. Also I thought the title should feature Wilbur. It would be later that I’d realize the sacrificial heroics of Charlotte. She was a true friend.

Never diminish the importance of reading aloud to children.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Spooky! The Screw Turn Flash Fiction Competition

The Screw Turn Flash Fiction Competition
Deadline: January 31, 2019
The Ghost Story is seeking fine flash fiction on a supernatural theme. $500 first prize, and $100 for each of two honorable mentions. All three will be published online and in our print anthology, 21st Century Ghost Stories: Volume II. Ghost stories are always welcome, of course—but we're searching for well-crafted sudden fiction incorporating any supernatural theme or element, or magic realism. 250-1,000 words; $10 entry fee.

Image result for ghost

Monday, January 14, 2019

2nd Grade

2nd Grade

Same bob haircut. My teeth are like boxy appendages stuck into rubbery pink gums. It will take years for me to grow into my new teeth. My parents did not believe in braces. Orthodontics was for rich kids, or for the most serious cases.

I would come home from school and change into play clothes. It was possible to climb a windbreak of hedge apple trees separating our backyard from an undeveloped field. Starting at one end, I could go from one tree to the next without touching the ground. I’d carefully navigate the branches, trying to avoid inch-long thorns, slowly making my way through the canopy. Sometimes I’d just sit in the crook of a tree and make up stories inside my head.

I was largely left alone by my older brothers and sister. I knew it was dinnertime when the sky began to darken.

Friday, January 11, 2019

1st Grade

1st Grade

Hard to believe how short my bangs are in this picture. I might have tried to cut them myself and then a hairdresser had to even them out. I remember telling my Dad I had a loose tooth, and he tied a piece of string around it and the other end around a door knob. Then slammed the door shut. I screamed seeing the bloody stump of my tooth dangling at the end of the string. My brothers and sister were like planets orbiting around me—or perhaps I was a satellite circling my family. None of us seemed to fit together. A picture I hold in my head is sitting in front of our console black and white TV, a newspaper spread before me and my sister Nancy, eating popcorn before bed. I remember one night the show was very boring. A man was taking numbers out of a capsule inside a tumbler. I came to understand that if unlucky my older brother would have to go away to a place called Vietnam.

I also came to understand that no one knew what was going to happen—not even the adults.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019



My mother cut my bangs and set my hair in pigtails all askew. She suffered from depression and would go to the hospital for “treatment.” During summers a neighbor lady would watch me so Mom could rest. I was often left alone.

I remember exploring the woods behind our house on Princewood Avenue. One time, pretending to be an Indian, I stealthily stalked a man walking ahead of me. When I think about this now—I cannot blame my mother for being so anxious. I’d return home late for dinner with muddy shoes.

Funny—no one would ask me where I’d been all day.