Passion is evolving..

Students are blogging. Some are really good. Some are still, well, let’s just say, developing. I’ve noticed that those who tapped into their passion are leading the pack. The visual design and quality of content is evident. Gina-Bella demonstrates this with her blog, Conserving Marine Life. A native of Hawai’i, Gina-Bella’s passion is clearly evident in each of her posts.Writing Passion 

Our next big challenge in class will be to work on writing tight, concise copy filled with passion. My goal is to help these developing writers find their voice and make sure it is well developed and heard. Wish us luck!

Baby Books

Some things just slip off the radar when you enter Grad school in the midst of raising six kids. Cleaning my youngest son’s bedroom was one of those things. This past December, I decided the time had come to tackle this 9 x 12 section of my home that held enough contents to fill a room twice its size.

My son was at school, making it safe to enter the room with a large black trash bag, all-purpose cleaner, and paper towels. I was determined to downsize, clean and organize the remains.  After filling the trash bag, and two large plastic toy bin drawers, I faced the worst part of the job, a large, white, pressed wood, floor-to- ceiling shelf unit serving as toy/book storage.

As the youngest of six, Aidan had inherited all the children’s books and toys that ever graced the entrance to our home. His shelving unit was filled with a mass of childhood treasures, but mostly books. If I tossed old, long forgotten, and disregarded books, Aidan might have room for his burgeoning Lego collection. Throwing away old books seemed like a reasonable idea, in theory.

Fortunately, only my oldest daughter has inherited my obsession for books. The other children, when streamlining their bedrooms, rationally place outgrown, copies of Dr. Seuss or Corduroy the Bear, in donation bags with old clothes.  I routinely follow up by foraging through the donation bags, motivated by a desire to rescue precious texts. I helpfully suggest a more practical and responsible act would include giving the books to a younger sibling.  This “pass it on” practice saves me the agony of wrestling with bibliophile issues. Salvation ended, however when I ran out of children.  As I look at Aidan’s messy shelves, I realize they represent twenty-two years of childhood.

Sighing deeply, I know what needs to happen.  I begin to sort, wondering how I can part from board books filled with“special edition” illustrations drawn by former two year olds. Their worn edges and cracked binding tell a story of a different time. Countless Scholastic paperbacks with missing pages hold reminders of young children pouring over thin newsprint catalogs, dreaming of a new book to call their own.  A worn copy of Five Little Monkeys delivers a memory of distant bath-times and squeaky -clean toddlers with wet heads smelling of coconut. I remember the feeling of little warm bodies pressed against my chest as I rocked and read. And this. Moo, Baa, La, La, La– Didn’t I recite this for at least 1,000 naptime reads in the middle of the day, while guiltily wishing for a break? Even then I knew I needed to savor the moment. I knew this day would come.

The toddlers that once held these books are now in high school fretting over AP exams and college choices.  The pre-schoolers are in college fretting over GPA’s, tuition prices, and graduation requirements. The baby is eight years old. It is time to deal with reality and place these books, these memories, where they belong.

I realize I am fortunate.  By having six children, I have managed to extend cuddly reading time, the life of these books, way past a normal experience of the average family.  But now, the truth lies in my hands.  The books are aged and truly need to be discarded. The little children who once held them, read them, and treasured them have moved forward in life.

I survey the remnants of childhood and feel their power.  These pieces of cardboard, paper, ink, staples and glue are so much more. They are the gentle sway of a rocking chair and a warm, snuggling child on my lap. They are a Christmas morning squeal, a Spot the Dog birthday celebration, a naptime, and bedtime ritual. These seemingly insignificant, worn texts hold within their pages treasured memories; a record of childhood and early motherhood.

As I pick through familiar titles of stories once memorized, I am overwhelmed with emotion. The brevity and shifting evolution of life is an ominous foe. These little pieces of literature remind me of snuggles in bed before a thousand kisses and “I love you”s to chase away the monsters. They speak of giggles and joy bursting forth from a shared love of poetry and prose. They reflect long afternoons of “just one more story” that I thought would never end. These treasures are the captivating peace and beauty of a sleeping child whose breathing slows as you whisper, “And good night to the old lady whispering…hush”

I dust off the titles gently and place them in neat stacks on the floor. These books are my Velveteen Rabbit of mothering.  They are precious and loved because they no longer represent crisp, pristine copies of unknown stories and adventure. They are precious because they remind me of the power of language, the written word, and my great love of reading,. This love, shared and transferred to my children, is a powerful force. This love has transformed raggedy books into real, precious artifacts of life.

The streamlining of childhood toys will have to wait. I need to find a tote box to house the worn, tattered books. For some day, I hope to sit in a rocking chair and once again hold a precious child. I will smell their sweet, wet head and enjoy the weight of their body resting on my chest. I will gaze at the miracle of life and patiently recite the words held on the pages “one more time”. I will stroke their hair as they drift off to sleep and know what only a grandmother can know. Time races forward, but through written words we freeze it in a perfect, precious memory.

Poem in my Pocket Day

The other day I pointed my car at the interstate for another dismal, mad rush home. I hate commuting, dodging cars with distracted drivers, and the endless stops and starts. It was another dreary day in a string of gray, drizzly days, with lower than average temperatures. Northeast Ohio Winter is easily summed up with one word. Gray.

As my car gathered speed to join the pack, I sighed audibly, feeling the weight of oppressive, depressing weather and circumstances. Then my eye caught a flash of yellow peeking out of the brown grass beside the road berm. I merged into the line-up, but took the time to examine the little ray of sunshine that had caught my eye. Sure enough, there they were. A tiny little cluster of daffodils waving their heads with optimism to any fortunate passerby taking the time to notice. These little sprites of spring cheered me. Their image transformed my thoughts of drudgery to the words of William Wordsworth, I couldn’t help but recite.

In third grade, my teacher made the class memorize a poem! Such drudgery. Such uselessness. Or so we all thought. The words were strange and awkward to our young minds. “Who cares about daffodils”? We all asked one another. Our teacher not only had the audacity to make us memorize the words of a dead poet, but she also made us perform the poem for each other. We were convinced the adults in charge of our education had lost their minds. We were sure there would be no lasting benefit to memorizing a poem about flowers.

I cannot tell you how often in my adult life I have been ashamed of my 3rd grade attitude. I do understand where it probably originated. I believe we are a product of our culture more times than we would like to admit, and it is only through education that we overcome it. How often in American culture do we honor the poet? Why do we fail to realize the value of beautiful words, words that bring forth the rhythm of life and give birth to deep emotion and meaning? It is a shameful thing.

If it were not for Mr. Wordsworth’s gift of poetry, my heart and mind would not be transformed by a vision of tiny daffodils on a road embankment. My gray day would have remained lackluster and tiring. My thoughts upon an initial vision of yellow quickly passing my window, would not tap a memory engrained through the efforts of my 3rd grade teacher. I would not have perceived the hope, promise, and joy these beautiful words ignite:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

Today as we rushed out the door, my daughter announced, “It’s “poem in your pocket day”.

“It is?!” I responded. “How lovely. How absolutely lovely”.

Thank you Mr. Wordsworth for the poem that will always remain in my “pocket”. It enriches my adult life more than I could ever imagine .