Saturday, August 18, 2012

Writing with the Kids

Here is some writing I did in front of my students, with my students, in my classes yesterday a la Kelly Gallagher. We brainstormed about the tastes of our childhood, and then I quickly wrote a paragraph about one of mine from my list. Then it was their turn, and they wrote while I edited and revised my original paragraphs. Here are the edited versions--I wish I'd kept the originals!

Lemons with Salt:
Just looking at this is making my mouth water.
I’ve always been a real hoarder—just of things that are very important. So it comes as no surprise that I’ve kept every book I ever owned. Occasionally I go back through those old books, and when I do, I often find brown stains and a gritty substance between the pages. Rather than reducing the book’s value in my eyes, this residue always make me smile. I know what it means—someone (that would be me) ate a lemon with salt and got a little too excited, spilling some of that salty, sour goodness out onto the page for someone else to find years later. Today I can’t eat lemons with salt—it really wreaks havoc with your tooth enamel, but thanks to the stains, I’ll always have the memories of those lazy days spent reading my precious books and enjoying an escape from the everyday world of my small-town existence.

Cheddar Cheese: (this one didn't really get edited) 
Where are the saltine crackers?
Of all the foods we used to have at my mother’s house, there are probably none with as much emotional baggage as plain old cheddar cheese. My mom used to buy it in great hunks cut directly from the even larger hunk the butcher kept in the front case. She didn’t know that there were any other kinds of cheese. American? Never even knew that existed until I went to college. Parmesan? Mozzarella? Gouda? Nope. Everything from pizza to spaghetti was topped with good old yellow cheddar. We even cut pieces from it to nibble on like hairless rodents as we vegetated in front of the TV. So, to me, cheese will always be cheddar, the more the better, and skip everything else.

Hmmm...I think I'll pass....
Pecan Sandies:
As someone who teaches about memories and writing, I am fully aware that some people say that food memories are some of the strongest. If this really is the case, then I should probably stay far, far, away from pecan sandies. Pecan sandies aren’t as common now as they once were, but for you who are uninitiated, they are strange, hard, tasteless little cookies made by those infamous Keebler elves. At some point in my hazy elementary years, I came down with a severe case of strep throat. My parents didn’t believe in doctors, mainly because we didn’t have medical insurance, so they didn’t take me in to see one until I was nearly done for. By that time, I could barely open my mouth, and I was mildly delirious with a high fever. The doctor stood about ten feet away as he looked at my throat, which by now was as white as cotton. It didn’t take him long to diagnose strep. He sent me home with an antibiotic. My sweet mom thought food made everything better, so on the way home, as she filled the prescription, she purchased a box of pecan sandies. For reasons only known to my seven or eight year old self, I ate several and then promptly threw up. That was the last food I had for several days, as I was relegated to laying in bed and drooling into a cup for the next 48 hours. All I kept thinking about was the terrible taste of those pecan sandies, both going down and coming up. To this day, I shudder when I see that ubiquitous yellow package sitting on a grocery shelf. I’m old enough now to know that food can make you feel better, but not when you are too sick to enjoy it. So, when my own kids are sick, I bring them books and video games instead of food, and we all stay much happier.

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