A trip to McDonald’s with unexpected company.
A small commentary on a very grown-up topic from the perspective of a pre-teen.
This story holds a lot of meaning to me to this day. Rereading the story while typing it in to post it — no, I don’t have an electronic version — really made me remember what my grandparents and their little town meant to me — and still do.
It’s amazing what a little encouragement and a couple of good teachers can do for you.
Growing up, I procrastinated as much as possible when it came to English assignments in school — especially writing. I can remember thinking that as soon as I was done taking any kind of required English courses, I was going to be done with them for good. I simply didn’t like doing the work even though my mother (an English teacher for some time) not only helped me get the assignments done, but helped me learn to express myself and really work on getting papers edited as best as possible. Those days were filled with arguments. She’d critique or slash sentences or rearrange phrases, and I’d complain that she was changing the meaning of what I was trying to express. Partly, I just wanted the damn paper to be done! But, she was persistent and I complied and usually came around to her side of thinking.
Fast forward to freshman year of college and your required Composition 101. First assignment: writing about a period in your life of dramatic change. Ugh… Well, only one semester after this and I am done. The teacher, however, didn’t give us any guidelines. “Just write,” she said. Huh? No word count or number of pages to march towards in our final draft? No basic framework of how the final essay should be structured? Interesting. This is the type of boring parameters I had generally been given all my schoolastic life — never was I asked to be creative about the assignment.
When I finally figured out what to write about, I finally settled on telling the event in a story — with dialog and all. Now, I know, some of you who might read this (if there are any of you) are probably very good at writing and expressing yourself. But, for me this was uncharted territory. I hadn’t ever done any kind of writing like that before, and the only reason I did it was that I couldn’t bring myself to start this essay with a line like, “One of the biggest changes in my life was … It affected me because … blah… blah… blah…” — this just sounded so boring, as if you were reading facts from note cards! So, out came the essay in the form of a short story. And, I mean that — it just came out once I started writing.
I didn’t think much of the assignment when it was done, and I wasn’t expecting much. The day the professor handed back the graded essays, she told us that she always selected one student’s assignment to read to the class. To my complete surprise, she began reading my essay! “Holy Crap!” is actually what I remember thinking. I was borderline embarrassed, to be honest. I sat there and listened to someone else reading my story and for the first time realized that the way I had written was kind of interesting. The professor finished and announced it was my paper, handing it back to me, along with remarks about how wonderfully written the paper was. Remarks on the paper were similar along with legitimate criticism and your usual grammar corrections on a Comp. 101 paper. Other people in my class actually turned to me and said, “Wow! That was really good!” Never before had I experienced anything like that.
I shared the paper with my mother, the English teacher. Since I was in college calling my own shots, she hadn’t read it or even heard about it. I told her about the professor’s comments, too. “Yes, you can write,” Mom told me. “This is really good. You really expressed yourself creatively.”
From that point on, I decided English classes were OK. The ability to express myself in this way was wonderful to me — English was finally fun. So, instead of being done after Comp. 102, I decided I’d take an English elective on writing fiction. Even now, 17 years later, that class was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.
I found writing stories was very cathartic. It really offered me the ability to explore myself, sort things out and twist reality to my liking. This whole blogging business kind of offers this same sort of outlet, so I figured I would take the opportunity to post some of the stories I have written over the years. In doing so, I am hoping to be inspired to write new stories I’ve yet to find in me. I’ve wanted to for the longest time, but haven’t allowed myself to get around to it.
So, all these years later, I’d like to thank two teachers. My freshman-year English teacher who provided encouragement and gave me freedom, and Mom who really taught me how to write. Thank you.