Holy

I may catch flak for this… but spelling is important. I’m all for abbreviations, I LOVE emojis, and I’m not opposed to “text speak,” but proper spelling is another matter.

When I was in junior high, ripped jeans were a fad. But they were also against dress code. Anyone who dared defy the constrictions of said dress code were forced by the educational overlords to put duct tape over any and all holes or tears in their jeans/pants. It was quite a big deal for a while and many protests were raised by incensed students – because “fashion,” or whatever – to no avail. I wore a lot of sweatpants at that age, so I don’t remember being too bothered.

But further issues arose when administration started posting signs in the halls decrying said jeans. Except the signs didn’t say “holey” jeans. They said “holy” jeans.

Holy.

I repeat: HOLY.

As in… like… religious holy. So, they banned holy jeans. Which are jeans that are blessed by a priest, I guess? Perhaps sprinkled with holy water? Needless to say, the student body had a field day with that unfortunate incident, and the faculty went through a lot of duct tape to fix that mistake.

So yeah, much like grammar… spelling matters, folks.

 

This Child

So, I know I do this a lot, but I just stumbled upon an old poetry assignment from high school… based upon the first Walt Whitman poem I ever read. I thought it was lost, but it was on an old flash-drive I recently dug up. Considering the huge effect that Walt Whitman’s poems have had on me since then, it feels like a gift to have rediscovered it.

My classmates and I were told to write our own poems based on Walt Whitman’s poem, “There was a child went forth everyday,” but to shape it around our own lives, and it had to end with Whitman’s own words, which I will italicize. I was 15/16 when I wrote it… might take a crack and writing a new one sometime, to reflect new experiences.

For Olde Poetry Monday, enjoy!

This Child

Doctors and white walls were a part of this child,
Needles in arms and IV’s in foreheads,
A bit of blood turned into life-saving power,
For one tiny, incubated figure,
Too frail to even utter a cry,
And as the years went on, the scar grew smaller,
Serving only to gently remind
Of painful days and cold linoleum.

Summerville was a part of this child,
The town where the sun never died,
Shoes weren’t needed, and southern drawls summoned,
From across the street,
This child’s head was filled,
With impossible dreams of otters,
And pretending that the backyard was some far-off land,
Though the boat she made out of cardboard
Never floated anywhere,
She was happy.

Books and rain-streaked windows were a part of this child,
This child, who sat in her closet for hours,
Wishing that she could find Narnia.
She thought that simply howling at the moon would make her a wolf,
And even though it was only a game,
She really thought was the World’s Greatest Pokemon Trainer.
And that she and her blonde-haired best friend,
Really could fly when they sat on the swingset,
And flung their shoes out over the mulch to see whose went the furthest.

Soccer fields were a part of this child,
A checkered ball hammered into the left corner,
And cleats smudged by mud and dew-kissed grass,
The freedom to run from white line to white line,
Avoiding elbows and knees, ignoring harsh words,
Enduring practice in sweltering heat,
Striving to become worthy of that pale green jersey,
And the number ‘3,’ emblazoned in white,
In the end, the cleats proved too big.
And she traded the jersey in for a pen and paper.

Terrified screams were a part of this child,
Being chased by the Licorice at Hershey Park,
Pursuing a hug that she did not want to relinquish,
To some creep in red and white, with a never-fading smile.
But screams turned into peals of laughter,
During remembered hours of hide-and-seek,
Out on the lake, fishing with Dad in the grey of the morning,
Setting the bass free that was meant to be breakfast.
And at sleepovers, when staying up until 11:00 was an incredible feat,
And we waited for the first girl to fall victim to sleep,
So her face could be decorated,
With the vibrant colors of a marker box.

Awkward silences were a part of this child,
A struggle to fit in, once moving vans carried a cherished friend away,
And the halls grew longer, the crowds heavier,
But friends were made at last, and kept,
The ‘See you soon’s’ written in the yearbooks became sincere,
And the taunts became distant echoes,
No longer heard in her ears.
Instead, laughter rang out in summer nights,
As fireworks crackled in the driveway,
Car rides down Friendship Avenue became adventures,
And text messages almost always exceeded 160 words.

Accidents were a part of this child,
Taking a horseshoe to the head,
Running headlong into a telephone pole,
That day, the race wasn’t much,
The competition poor,
But she ran her hardest, regardless of a sure-thing,
The steps were miscalculated,
But the baton left her palm,
Her feet left the red rubber,
The race won, but something else lost,
The only standing ovation she ever received,
Rang in her ears, even in the Emergency Room.

Boston was a part of this child,
Golden ducks at Boston Commons,
And free chocolate bars from the cute guy at Starbucks,
A house shared between 12 teens and 3 adults,
Attempting to share 3 bathrooms.
Something was found on the grey-paved streets,
Floating on the cold, salty Atlantic,
And in the embers of a towering campfire,
Perhaps it wasn’t what she intended to find there,
But it was real,
And those sharing the memories may be scattered,
But she can look at a simple cone of ice cream,
And remember,
That seven day journey to understanding.

Comic books were a part of this child,
All of her dreams packed into one word balloon,
Accentuated with sound effects in all the right places,
Inspired by vigilantes and men in masks.
Microsoft Word files exceeding 540 pages,
And a burning desire to see her name in print.
Will drive this child to pursue a new life,
If only this child can stave off procrastination,
To reach her distant dreams.

These became a part of that child who went forth every day,
And who now goes,
And will always go forth every day.

Fling the Shoe

The mind of a child is an incredible thing.

When we were very young, my childhood best friend and I invented a game. We would swing on her swing set, go as high as we could, and fling our shoes off of our feet and send them flying across the yard, and see who could send theirs the farthest. We called this game, “Fling the Shoe.” Not the most creative name in the world, but it got the point across.

It’s such a simple thing, but it held a lot of meaning for us. We would muster all our strength and release the shoes at the peak of the swing, aiming for the brink of the neighbor’s yard. It all came down to the timing – if you waited too long, you’d accidentally send it flying straight up, or do it too soon and you wouldn’t get the proper angle. There was a certain art to it, and we could play for ages trying to achieve the perfect technique. I don’t know who won more often, but I don’t think we really cared who actually flung their shoe the furthest. We just had so much fun doing it.

We spent countless sunny afternoons playing this game, and lamenting bad weather because it meant we couldn’t. In the summer, her backyard was full of our laughter, and the air was full of sneakers. Every time I see a swing set I think of those days and how much fun we had together. We weren’t glued to the television (at least, not all the time) or engrossed with computers – which there is too much of these days, even though I am pro-technology. All we had were our imaginations, our creativity, and the simple bliss of childhood friendship.

“Fling the Shoe” was such a simple thing, but it’s a dear memory. Because it meant so much more than that, and still does.

 

Remember This

When I was in my 11th grade AP U.S. History class, my teacher told us there was one date we needed to remember. May 17th, 1954 – Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. The landmark decision that declared racially segregated schools as unconstitutional, and sparked several crucial events in the civil rights movement. It’s also an event that has become prevalent again, considering the volatile state of our country.

Over the course of the school year, he reiterated this date – and we would often have to repeat it back to him, to ensure sure we knew it verbatim. There were other dates that he impressed the importance of upon us, but that one was the big one.

In fact, one time, he was speaking to one of our principals while three of us were sitting in his room studying during a free period, and he merely turned to us, got our attention and pointed at us, like a maestro giving a cue.

One of us instantly said, “May 17th, 1954 – Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas.”

Not to be outdone, I said, “June 6th, 1944. The Normandy landings, otherwise known as D-Day.”

And the last of us said, “September 17th, 1787 – the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Our teacher then looked at our startled principal and gave her a look, as if to say, “See? What did I tell you?” He had us trained, and trained well. When that date showed up not once, but twice on the AP U.S. History exam that year, I gleefully answered those questions with confidence.

And I haven’t forgotten it, all these years later. I didn’t quite realize the gravity of that date, and that landmark decision, back when I learned it – even though he so adamantly told us to remember it. It was some distant thing that happened ages ago. It was little more than history. Since then, I have come to understand the importance. When it comes up in movies, I can better place the context. When I read it in books, I gain a better understanding. When I see what happens in the world to this day, and the injustice that people face, that date blares in my mind like a siren.

So I consider it a blessing that I listened when my teacher said, “remember this,” because now that I am older – and maybe, just maybe, a bit wiser than a 16 year old girl from rural PA – I am able to better grasp the relevance of May 17th, 1954. I have forgotten tons and tons of things I learned in both high school and in college – it’s all too easy for tidbits of info to slip between the cracks of memory.

But that date is one thing I will not forget.

History

Every year, on the weekend closest to the anniversary of D-Day, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, PA holds an event called World War II weekend. Folks can come to see real WWII planes take to the air and stroll through recreated military encampments, watch FDR and Churchill drive by in classic cars, peruse genuine artifacts, listen to veterans speak, and learn all sorts of intriguing tidbits about the WWII era.

My dad used to take my sister and me to this event for many years. He knows a lot about the planes and enjoyed teaching us about the differences between them and what they were used for. One year, we got to meet Robert K. Morgan the pilot of the Memphis Belle, and tour the plane itself. I was pretty young at the time, so I didn’t fully understand the significance of that interaction, but I’m glad I got to meet him and shake his hand, as he has since passed away. I garnered an intense appreciated for WWII air crafts, of which my favorite is the P-40 Warhawk.

Even though I’ve attended this event several times, it’s still fun to go every year. Occasionally, new planes enter the rotation as the museum acquires them.

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Of course, the most rewarding part of these events is seeing the planes take to the skies. Despite these planes being over 70 years old, many of them are still in flying condition. And it is absolutely incredible to watch. Though there are so many things to walk around and see, many people set up lawn chairs on the grass just to sit and watch the planes fly all day – though, if you ever do this, I recommend bringing lots of sunscreen, water, and maybe a sunhat and sunglasses.

Veterans of the Great War still attend these events – they engage curious children and talk about their experiences with anyone who stops to chat. Of course, there are less of these brave men and women now than ever, as all of them would be into their 90’s now. It’s an era that should never be forgotten, and events like this certainly help with that.

But this event is special because of the multi-generational quality – it’s encouraging to see young children take an interest in our nation’s history, and heartwarming to see grandchildren walking around with their grandparents, eagerly listening to them talk about the planes and such. It’s also insanely comforting to see any folks taking their elderly parents/grandparents around, making sure they get to see everything, taking care that they don’t get lost in the crowd, entertaining their questions and treating them with the utmost respect.

I am thankful that my father took me to the airshow when I was young, even if I didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of WWII as a child. Now that I can appreciate the history more, it’s like taking a stroll through history – and recognizing the greatness, and the sorrow that comes with it.

Hope

As someone who works in the (n)ever-exciting, fast-paced realm of retail, I answer numerous customer questions every shift. These questions are often easy to answer, but occasionally, you get an adverse reaction. So, if a day is already going awry, I tend to regard approaching customers with a sense of dread looming over me.

During a stressful late shift last week, a little girl and her grandmother stopped me near the entrance of the store while I was the manager on duty. My specialties are more attuned to menswear, so I feared they would be asking me something about children’s clothing. But instead, the grandmother asked me if we had any scarves – not winter scarves, and preferably inexpensive, because the little girl needed if for a class presentation. She was going to be dressing up as someone she finds inspiring – her hero.

And the little girl, as if on cure, looked at me and said, “I’m dressing up like Malala Yousafzai.”

And I froze for a second. Because, really… that’s not the answer I was expecting. A little girl, with blue eyes and a blonde ponytail, living in a fairly conservative area, proudly declaring that her hero is Malala, and she needed the scarf to wear over her head. But as shocked as I was, once I took the time to absorb her words, one emotion overrode it.

Hope.

As chaotic as the world seems these days – a sort of discord and tension that can even be felt by children – this little girl made me hopeful that the next generation isn’t doomed to be lost. In a world where our leaders often fail to condemn hatred (and, in some cases, seem to condone it), and children can be easily swayed, hearing that little girl, over a decade younger than me, proclaim her admiration for Malala was inspiring. I did a similar project in sixth grade and I dressed up as Paul Revere, so this girl wiped the floor with me.

So I happily showed them our scarves, and when I passed them later on trying out a lovely blue floral one, I made sure to tell her that she looked great, and I hoped her presentation would go well. But though she thanked me for the compliment, I should have thanked her for showing me that there is hope to be found in the younger generation.

Unexpected

When I was in 6th grade, my classmates and I participated in a program at a place called Exchange City. Basically, we were to apply for jobs, learn how to interview, and, once our positions were secured, we went on a field trip to a makeshift “city” set up where we were told to run our businesses and do our jobs and try to make a profit. I suppose this was to prepare us for the “real world,” and it was a very cool and valuable experience overall. I only wish we could have done a more advanced version later on, maybe during senior year of high school.

When we were deciding what jobs to interview for, I narrowed it down to three – the total number we were permitted to interview for – and though I don’t remember the third, the two main ones I wanted were Postal Worker and Environmental Control Agent. I desperately wanted the latter, and was eager to interview for it. I could imagine myself strolling along the carpet streets of the Exchange City facility, ensuring that everything was going well. To be honest, I don’t really remember what the job entailed, all I know is that I REALLY wanted it. I pinned all my hopes on that job.

The 6th grade teachers got teachers from other grades and parent volunteers and other school staff to act as interviewers. I don’t recall interviewing for whatever the third job was, but the Postal Worker interview was with the mother of a boy in my class, held in the instrumental practice room. I had dressed up for the day, and even wore a skirt despite the fact that my usual wardrobe at that point in my life was full-on workout gear, complete with sweatband.

I answered her questions honestly, treated it like a normal conversation, explained why I was the best for the position, and wasn’t overcome by nerves. I walked out of the room content that I had done a fair job and represented myself well, but since that wasn’t the job I dreamed of, I didn’t think too much about it afterward.

Then, it was time to interview for the Environmental Control Agent position. I was wracked with nerves, and I don’t even remember who it was with, it passed in a blur. I was so anxious to impress, I stumbled over questions and my knees shook the whole time. I left the room rattled, but still held faith that I had done enough to earn the job. I stuttered, but got my point across.

After some days of deliberation, our class received our jobs – the ones we would maintain for the duration of our time at Exchange City. I waited for my slip, fully expecting to see “Environmental Control Agent” at the top. That is, until a girl in my class proudly exclaimed from across the room that she had gotten it instead.

I was crushed. I couldn’t fathom doing the assignment as anything else. In retrospect, it was a school assignment and not a real job, so there was no reason to be upset. But I was twelve, so, everything was a big deal those days. Obviously, I hadn’t impressed during my interview, and someone else had deserved the job instead. I’d let myself down.

Eventually, I got my slip. I took a minute to open it, trying not to be upset over losing out on my dream position. And at the top of my assignment was the position: Postmaster. Not Postal Worker, which was the position I applied for. Postmaster. I had not only knocked my Postal Worker interview out of the park, I’d done so well they gave me an even better job!

Just like that, losing out on the other job didn’t seem to matter any more. I still succeeded, but in a way that was a little… unexpected. And I made the best of it, selling candy-grams and other letters when it came time to perform my duty, making sure the Postal Worker delivered them all on time. I did have to buy us out of debt at the end of the day at Exchange City, but still, I had a great time and I loved the job I was given, even though it wasn’t the one that I originally wanted.

To this day, I have no idea what an Environmental Control Agent does. But I do still look for the positives, and my successes, in places and situations that might not be expected.