For the last five days, Ava and I have given up our morning walks, sunbathing by the pool, and afternoon naps to attend The Writing Institute. For 10 hours each day, we've listened to "motivational" speakers, attended such scintillating classes, as " The Latest and Greatest Books To Springbooard Writing," "Conducting Effective Class Discussions," and "Teaching Grammar With Picture Books." (I must confess, lest you are thinking of nominating one or both of us for sainthood, that the very first day we sneaked off campus to "run errands" and actually ended up at Nikko's Corner, the local wine store, drinking a chocolate wine, left over from Saturday night's tasting, and we were commmonly known as "the bad gals from Mississippi.") Below you can read Ava's final project, a story about moi, and you can see my journal pages, which are based on this story. You are going to love this story.
Maps of Heaven
She was one of the "babies," children five in August but six in September, put in Miss Rayden's room to prepare them for second grade. If they were ready the next year, they moved up. Most stayed with Miss Rayden, not being quite ready to leave the idyll that was their first grade. These children were given lots of scope, plenty of room to maneuver. For example, the babies could take their shoes off and go barefoot all day if they wanted; they could draw pictures instead of writing--preferred subject matter, maps of heaven, drawn with great swirling lines of blue and gold and orange. Since they were babies, they couldn't be bothered to remember grown-ups' last names, they just called Miss Rayden Miss Mary. Sometimes Miss Mary's babies all walked over to her little pink house a half block from the school and visited there instead of in the classroom. Sometimes the babies just all joined hands and floated straight up to heaven--barefoot, using their maps, with Miss Mary leading the ascension.
Most of the babies stayed behind to bond with Miss Mary one more year. Kathy, however, was a very bright little girl; she had, after a brief fisticuff with the 30's and the 50's, learned to count to 100, earning a gold star, and sealing her fate. She was moved to to Mrs. Yates' room. There, Kathy was handed a thick, smelly, stapled packet of mimeographed worksheets. Having never before put pencil to paper except to write her name on her map of heaven, she didn't quite realize they were given to her for completion. After a while, she was tired of them. So she abandoned the packet and knelt down by the desk to organize her brand-new school supplies. She was so proud of them. She took out all the composition books, the plastic pencil holder, the ruler, and the queen of all, the three-ring binder. She sorted them by shape and color, made sure the desk was nice and neat and clear of scraps of paper, and began to put them back when a cacophony of fury exploded just over her left ear. To a noise-sensitive child, it was like the barrage of artillery marking the obliteration of Bastogne. She dropped flat on the floor until the screaming exhausted itself, with a vague idea that it would simply move on like a storm front. When it did stop, she raised her head, only to see Mrs. Yates three inches from her face, glaring right at her. The yelling had stopped, but its aftermath remained, like violent drops of a summer storm. They evaporated, but left a hissing miasma behind.
So Kathy got back in her desk. She was finished organizing her materials anyway and ready to color something, but the packet was still on her desk, obstinate and unappealing. She started doing some of the fill-ins, mildly engaged at first. She spent a pleasant quarter of an hour drawing arrows. She matched some shoes with feet, some hats with heads, gloves with hands. Kathy noticed her desk had holes in the side of the seat, so she stuck her pencil in one of them. It looked like the throttle of an airplane, so she began to maneuver the pencil back and forth, shifting up to a higher altitude, leaning way back in her seat from the g-force, and finally bursting through the clouds to an expanse of glorious sunlight. She thought she caught a glimpse of Miss Mary.
Boom! Her pencil flew out of the hole and Kathy plummeted down, spiraling in a collision path. What she thought was a sonic blast turned out to be Mrs. Yates yelling again, and Kathy had to shake her head a little to focus her vision, then wished she hadn't, because what she saw was a snarling, snapping mouth and two bushy black eyebrows, this time only two inches away.
I wish that for a little while adult Kathy could go back and inhabit baby Kathy's body. Trapped as she was in her second-grade frustration, hurt, and bewilderment, I'd love to see what became her very distinct assertiveness emerge. "What??" she'd say.
"I'm here. I've got my plaid dress on; my crayons are sharpened. What do you want from me? Ask me to color something, bitch." Sadly, in baby Kathy, that quality was either non-existent or inchoate. But I think it started there, with Mrs. Yates' screaming.
And while she didn't make the connection between Mrs. Yates' termagant behavior and the unfinished packets until she was about forty or so--really--Kathy grounded her plane and settled down to drudgery, following a dim perception that the worksheets that might be something she was actually expected to do. They weren't great flowing swirls of color that led to heaven, but they did finally lead to third grade, and a kinder, gentler Mrs. Lacey.
Look at her. Right this minute. There she is, in the back of the South Gwinnett High School Theatre. She's got her writing journal open and she's working. She's listening to the lecture, but she's writing, too, writing in undulating lines of turquoise on a saffron-painted page embellished with pink swirls and green scallops. Scraps of paper flutter down periodically from her lap, and land on the carpet like confetti. Somewhere, from up in heaven, Miss Mary blows a party horn, waiting for Kathy to ascend to celestial heights and join her and the other babies there.
for Creative Therapy
"Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.” for Saturday Surprise
for One Powerful Hour
for My Artistic Life