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WRITING THE PAST A collection of poems based on stories of family history by SIXTH GRADE STUDENTS at GREENS FARMS ACADEMY


INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................................................................................................2 ABOUT THIS BOOK.................................................................................................................................................................................3 “AUNT DOTTY TAKES A TUMBLE” .....................................................................................................................................................4 “REUNITED” ...........................................................................................................................................................................................5 “THE CANNOLI” ....................................................................................................................................................................................7 “GONE” ...................................................................................................................................................................................................8 “HOME”...................................................................................................................................................................................................9 “THE BRITISH ARE COMING!” .............................................................................................................................................................9 “MIKO” ..................................................................................................................................................................................................10 “DEFIANCE IS THE KEY” ....................................................................................................................................................................10 “THE DOG GETS MCDONALD’S” .....................................................................................................................................................11 “THE CUPCAKES”.................................................................................................................................................................................12 “WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?”.............................................................................................................................................................14 “FATHER”..............................................................................................................................................................................................14 “HOLLYWOOD” ....................................................................................................................................................................................15 “MAKING WINE” .................................................................................................................................................................................16 “ELLIS ISLAND”....................................................................................................................................................................................17 “UTAH”..................................................................................................................................................................................................18 “STATUE OF LIBERTY” ........................................................................................................................................................................19 “SPEARS AND FEARS” ..........................................................................................................................................................................20 “A NEW LIFE” ......................................................................................................................................................................................21 “I SAW A MOUSE RUNNING”..............................................................................................................................................................22 “TAKEN” ...............................................................................................................................................................................................23 “JESSE JAMES”.......................................................................................................................................................................................24 “THE ARRIVAL”....................................................................................................................................................................................25 “EVERY MOMENT” ..............................................................................................................................................................................25 “DIANA” ................................................................................................................................................................................................26 “THE GUARDIAN” ...............................................................................................................................................................................26 “DUCK POND”......................................................................................................................................................................................27 “LEAP OF FAITH” .................................................................................................................................................................................27 “A LETTER TO DAMIEN” ....................................................................................................................................................................28 “PILFERING GREED”...........................................................................................................................................................................28 “MT. RAINIER” .....................................................................................................................................................................................29 “LOST” ...................................................................................................................................................................................................29 “ADOLPH” .............................................................................................................................................................................................30 “ROAD TRIP” ........................................................................................................................................................................................30 “THE BIG GORILLA SUIT” ..................................................................................................................................................................31 “HOCKEY PUCK” .................................................................................................................................................................................32 “SHAVING”............................................................................................................................................................................................32 “VIETNAM” ...........................................................................................................................................................................................33 “THE SURPRISE”...................................................................................................................................................................................33 “THE BEAR SIGHTING”.......................................................................................................................................................................34 “A BRAND-NEW COAT FOR CHRISTMAS”........................................................................................................................................35 “ABYSSINIAN NIGHT” .........................................................................................................................................................................36 “PRESSURIZED LIES” ...........................................................................................................................................................................37 “CRICKET” ............................................................................................................................................................................................37 “MARATHON”.......................................................................................................................................................................................38 “BABY MARY”.......................................................................................................................................................................................39 “BOMBING”...........................................................................................................................................................................................40 “VAMPIRE HORSE” ..............................................................................................................................................................................41 “THE SET UP”.......................................................................................................................................................................................41 “SPY ON A TRAIN” ...............................................................................................................................................................................42 “A NICE HAT” ......................................................................................................................................................................................43 “THE MYSTERIOUS SWOOSH BUS”....................................................................................................................................................44 “9-1-1” ...................................................................................................................................................................................................45

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INTRODUCTION

! This yearly assignment is simple: each sixth grader has to sit down with a relative—father, mother, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt—and ask to hear a story about an event that happened in his or her family’s past. This event could have happened a week ago, six months ago, 60 years ago, or hundreds of years ago—the era isn’t important. What is important are the conversations; the transfer of stories through generations; the tiny, emotional details of setting and character. After hearing the story, each sixth grader has to turn it into a poem. These are the results. We hope you enjoy them.

—Ben Gott & the sixth grade at GFA May 5, 2013 www.gfacademy.org www.writingattheforum.org www.issuu.com/gfams

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ABOUT THIS BOOK Contributors Allie A. Emerson B. Lil B. Jack C. Mairead C. Alida D. Eva E. Caitlin E. Grace G. Sean H. Saloni J. Dominick M. Andy M. Alex N. Charles P. Ethan P. Ethan P. Edward R. Reed V. Jaida W.

Leah A. Mackenzie B. Christina B. Charles C. Thea C. Oliver D. Julia E. Coco F. Nikki G. Lucy H. Elliot K. Madison M. Bryn M. Alexandra N. Giani P. Gerrit P. Mike P. William S. Lila W.

Thomas B. Morgan B. Teddy B. Charlotte C. Lauren D. Jack D. Ian E. Ethan F. Luke H. Patrick H. Teagan M. Grace M. Ella M. Bella N. Piero P. Amy P. Jake R. Charlie T. Isabella W.

Editor & Designer Mr. Ben Gott bgott@gfacademy.org Cover image via Flickr (used under a Creative Commons license)

! Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND. Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes. No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

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“AUNT DOTTY TAKES A TUMBLE” It was almost time to leave. The reception had lasted forever, and everyone was exhausted but still celebrating. My brother and his new bride were having the best night of their lives. As I turned toward the door to leave, I saw a drunk old woman start to sway and then a bright blue blob fall through the air. It felt like slow motion. The blob was my aunt Dotty, her wig suspended a few feet above her head. She was headed toward the floor. She landed with a crack, and the room went silent. “Is there a doctor in the house?!” There was: Dante, my brother’s best man, ran down the stairs. I will never forget the instant she stopped breathing, but Dante picked her up, slowly and carefully. When he heard her breath return, he gave the thumbs up. The ambulance pulled into the reception hall, and Dante helped my great aunt onto the stretcher. I looked at him and knew right then that someday I would see him at another wedding: ours. —Christina B.

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“REUNITED” The wind blows my papers off my lap as the back door to my house swings open. After a day of waiting, they are here. My aunt, uncle, and cousins step through the door. They look tired from the trip, but their faces light up as I rush to give them hugs. My dad takes their suitcases upstairs, and the rest of us sit down to catch up. They look so different, but they’re still the same. Nikki is preparing for her dance recital. Stevie is competing in basketball. Uncle Michael and Aunt Stacy watch them do it all. It is great to be together again. I tell them everything that’s happening with me. They listen with ears wide open. Something about today makes us closer. Something about today reunites us. —Nikki G.

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“MAYFLOWER” Rights are something that all people deserve, but mine were taken from me. My people were the outcasts from the group; the “weird” and the “abnormal.” We made a ship— a golden ship— and sailed across the raging sea just to practice the religion we believed in. As I stood on the starboard side of the boat, I could see the first three letters of the ship: M-A-Y. May was my favorite month, for it was the month of my birth: May 28, 1590. Many would die on this trip. My family would stay safely at home in London while I braved the seas to look for a new start. We saw the golden lands— our new home— as we rowed our boats toward shore. Soon, the tents of freedom were up, but we wouldn’t survive the winter. Then our saviors came, dressed in deerskin pants and shirts made from the skins of bears. They taught us everything they knew and we survived. Our thanks to them? Disease and death; battles and murders. By now, I am an old man, and this is my story. My blood and religion will continue on forever. My wife and children are here, but I hear rumors that they are going back; that I took this trip for nothing; that my journey had no purpose. Is the struggle for freedom purpose enough? —Giani P.

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“THE CANNOLI” We ordered the a cheese pizza, with a Diet Coke to go along with it, and we talked until our food arrived. We enjoyed each other’s company as we told stories about our backgrounds, our families, and our friends so we could get to know each other better. When our waiter came out with the pizza we ordered, we noticed that this pizza had a thick layer of stringy cheese unlike any we had ever seen. The warm, soft bread and crust and the gooey cheese warmed our mouths and cheeks with each bite. When we were done eating dinner, the waiter handed us the dessert menu. It turned out that both of our favorite desserts happened to be cannoli, so we ordered one cannoli for the both of us to share. When the waiter arrived with our dessert, Gerrit, like a gentlemen, gave me the first bite. I opened my mouth to take a bite and, by accident, breathed in. The powdered sugar rushed to the back of my throat. I tried to hold it in, and that’s when I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. I knew I could not hold it in much longer. Right as Gerrit was about to ask if I was okay, I coughed, a cloud of snow-white powdered sugar completely covering his face. We both started laughing and could not stop. In fact, we laughed for the rest of the night. —Gerrit P.

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“GONE” Tuesday, November 23, 1987: the day that changed me. The day that made me strong, yet weak. The day that made me grateful. Portland, Maine: a beautiful town. My full stomach and I were excited to plop down on the couch for a quiet evening. I gazed at the bright stars and walked down the few blocks toward home. It was just two blocks. Before I reached my apartment, I heard the laughing pack of boys not thinking, just doing. I knew they were going to walk past me, but my mind led me to the wrong place. A four-foot long pointed stick: the weapon I still fear today. It slashed at my face. A red line marked the territory of the four mindless boys. I ran straight home and right to the telephone to call my brother, Alex. He drove me to the hospital where the doctors told me that I had to stay in bed for two days. The third day was Thanksgiving. As I lay in bed that night, I could slowly see my vision fade away. My sight was gone. Forever. —Allie A.

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“HOME” I sat down on my neighbor’s steps as I watched the giant claw rip our house to shreds. All my memories— five years— torn apart. I felt the claw dig into my mind as it dug out the memories of my home. I wanted to stop it, but I knew I could not. I would have to make more memories and have more space and be much warmer in the new house. I saw my house in a completely different way. I saw things I had never noticed before. While I didn’t want to give up my old house, my new one is much better. It is a change I do not regret. —Dominick M.

“THE BRITISH ARE COMING!” The British are coming! The British are coming! Oh, no! One Brit has stayed! And…no! Another is born! Then another! That midnight ride will last forever. —Thea C.

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“MIKO” Every day that passed, he was right there with us. He always spoiled us with too many hugs. Wherever his nose went, so did happiness. He was the bounciest in the world. He was always there for us. Until. He soon grew weak. The lively spirit inside him vanished. He soon found it hard to listen. He didn’t respond when I called his name. He didn’t talk as much, yet he never left our side. But then. His vision became weary, but that didn’t make our love for him decrease. And today. He is now gone, scared into nothingness. Never again will he bark or squirm or leap. But he will be forever loved. —Leah A.

“DEFIANCE IS THE KEY” Defiance. People point and laugh as I walk down the hall. People taunt and threaten me with laughter that scares me. People drag me down and down away from the good. What will help to guide me through the dark? There is only one way out, and I know what it is: defiance. Something I know well. Something that will help me rise back up. —Bryn M. 10


“THE DOG GETS MCDONALD’S” She drives to the restaurant. It is always a last resort, yet she goes every day— but not for herself. A large, golden blob sits in the back taking more than one seat or two or three. His tail wags. His tongue lazily lolls. She orders a soda. A Kid’s Meal. An extra-large bucket of fries. The cashier looks up from his phone, surprised. She walks back to the car, her hands full of food, and throws it into the back seat where it disappears into a bottomless, golden hole that barks its approval. She speeds away, ignoring the golden fur that blocks the rear-view mirror. Done for today. Ready for tomorrow. —Lila W.

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“THE CUPCAKES” I wake up. Finally, it’s the day: my fourth birthday. Even the weather can’t darken my mood: dark, gray, and icy. I get to pick up cupcakes by myself on the way to school. This is big. Very big. I feel older then four— maybe even six. I walk down the icy sidewalk to the bakery. I dream of all the presents I am going to get tonight. At the bakery, people Awwwww! and say “How cute!” But their words can’t be for me because I’m old now. I am grown up. The box is the size of me, and heavy. I wobble down the street. Just walk down the hill, one turn, and I will be there. Two more steps, then suddenly— ice. Down I go. Tears and cupcakes everywhere. I frantically try to put them back in the box. Little pebbles and bits of dirt replace the perfect vanilla frosting and tiny blue S’s. Maybe I’m not grown up. Maybe I’m just four after all. —Julia E.

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“ANGEL” Something was wrong. The terror welled up inside of me. I couldn’t live like this. I got into my old Cadillac and faced my inner surrender. I told myself that I would get good news as I made a futile attempt to comfort myself. I got to the hospital and tried to take a deep breath. I couldn’t. I checked in at the front desk. I had never been more terrified in my life. I sat down and read some magazines. I tried to relax. Weeks later, they wouldn’t let me leave. I needed to get out. I needed to see my mother. I needed to go home. But they wouldn’t let me. The doctor stuck his hands inside of a hole in my chest to feel around and find the tumors. No painkillers. No anesthesia. I had never felt such pain in my life. I wanted to die. The doctors said they had heard a death rattle. I was positive my time had come. Later that night, angels fluttered over my head as I closed my eyes. —Patrick H.

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“WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?” Their mouths move and sounds come out, but I don’t understand a word.

Munnene deres beveger seg og lyder kommer ut, men jeg forstår ikke et ord av det.

Some faces smile, and some don’t.

Noen ansikter smiler, og noen gør det ikke.

There are so many colors, vibrant, bright, beautiful colors: reds and yellows; purples and blues; oranges brighter than the sun.

Det finnes så mange farger, sterke, store, nydelige farger rødt og gult; lilla og blått; og oransje som skinner mer enn solen.

What are they saying?

Hva sier de? —Alida D.

“FATHER” On a trip with my friends from college, I walk into a hotel in Thailand. The man hands me a fax: my father is dead. I am crying; sobbing. That night, I cannot sleep. I dream about my father. When I return to Thailand, I return to the same hotel. The same man hands me another fax. But this time, the news is good: I have a grandson. The circle of life: death and birth. When someone dies, someone else is born. —Jake R.

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“HOLLYWOOD” We got on the plane that would take us to California. My mom squeezed my tiny hand as we sat down in our seats. “So, why are we going to Hollywood again?” I asked, my small, squeaky voice filling the plane. “For my job,” my mom told me. My mom was the NITSA administrator for highway traffic safety. She was the one who kept the car seats safe. You know her: “Click it or ticket.” In Hollywood, she and I would walk down the red carpet together. “You’re the coolest mom,” I whispered. When we arrived at Disneyland, we spent the day touring the magical place without waiting in any lines. I could get used to living the life of a celebrity! I thought. Then it was showtime. My mom took my hand as we began the walk down the bright-red carpet. The flashing cameras flooded my face with bright light. “Smile!” my mom shouted at me over the loud cheers. It was obvious that I was new at this. We shared the red carpet with many other stars: Zach and Cody, Matthew Perry, Sigourney Weaver, Brad Garrett, and the CEO of Disney, Bob Iger. “Hi, sweetie!” I heard a voice say. “Would you like to give an interview?” Outside, I appeared calm, but inside I was jumping around hysterically. “Go!” my mom said. The questions weren’t hard, just small things like “Are you proud of your mom for being so obsessed with safety?” “Yes,” I replied, “of course. My mommy always keeps me safe.” At the end of the red carpet, 15


we walked into the theatre and sat down to watch Wall•E. I was disappointed there were no words. At seven, I had trouble understanding it. When the movie ended, I began to feel tired, but the after party was still to come. My mom carried me around the room. I leaned on her shoulder. I could barely say “goodbye” as I drifted off to sleep. I had had enough famous for one day. —Alex N.

“MAKING WINE” October: the time for making wine. We drive into Boston to the produce market to load the car full of grapes. At home, in the cellar, Grandma prepares the grapes. The children are excited as they wait for a chance to turn the crank, pressing the grapes and making juice flow out. Every Sunday, my family would test the wine at our family dinner. For now, the wine is ready, stored away in the cellar. —Thomas B.

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“ELLIS ISLAND” Tears flow from my eyes. My hand aches from waving goodbye. I am leaving the only world I have ever known for another world across the sea. The beep of the boat’s horn startles me from my daydream, but I manage to return to it. What will my life be like? What if I can’t find a job? These questions stick in my mind like bubble gum stuck to the sole of a shoe. Days pass as I continue to converse with my conscience. I can finally see land, and I gather my family. We jump off of the boat and are taken aback by this disgusting wasteland. This “new world” is worse than Russia. I wait in this building— a prison for foreigners. I wait for days to be asked for my name, which is spelled incorrectly. They shout at me to move along. I walk outside to be greeted by a new world. I can see all of the opportunities in store for my family. I lean down and kiss the ground. I step into a new life. I am a new Alexander Cirulnick. —Ethan P.

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“WHO WE ARE, TOGETHER” Me. The memory. The different one. My mom. The adventurer. The walking GPS. My dad. The hard worker. The creative one. My sister. The daredevil; the “nice” one, somehow, according to my parents. My brother. I honestly don’t know what he is. The cranky teenager? The lax bro? The supportive one? What is he? Together, we make up the strongest team, but apart, we are nothing. —Mairead C.

“UTAH” I sit down in the big mountain house with all my cousins. We wonder when we will go skiing. Finally, it is time. We get our boots on. The snow is like a big, white, fluffy blanket. I hear people shouting, “I am going off a jump!” Everyone follows behind. We get off the chair to do the run again, but no one wants to. We are cold and hungry. We sit at lunch, my cousin and I thinking, When will we go back up? The mountain is my second home. —Teddy B.

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“STATUE OF LIBERTY” I walk down the creaky wooden floorboard on the dock that leads to the grand mother ship. It will lead me to my eternal freedom. The year is 1905. I am all by myself. No one accompanies me, not even my father. I am twelve years old. Thousands of people live in this huge city. I have never seen such frenzy, like a million atoms, all cramped into a single drop of water. The chaos grows, yet I can stay calm, knowing that everything will be fine soon. Two weeks— two weeks from now, I will see the colossal feminine statue stand tall above me. Nobody can bring it down. It is liberty. In two weeks, I will meet my father there on the righteous ground as I escape persecution by soldiers disgusted by my family; my religion; my life. I have almost escaped the the huge collision of the two great countries: Germany. Russia. But there, I still have a chance: America. —Ethan F.

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“SPEARS AND FEARS” It started as a fun day in the pool, but the ending was not so cool. It was a normal, warm summer’s day as my brother, sister, and I played a stupid game. We tried to dodge the metal spears thrown by our peers. But when the pole hit my head, the water turned red. I was bleeding like a stuck pig; the pole that hit me was quite big. My sister dove in screaming and my brother came to me, scheming. He tried to bribe me with M&Ms. Then my mother came outside, ticked off. We rushed to the emergency room and boom— lights out. I was left with a scar on my head and a scar in my heart. I will never forget the day of spears and fears. —Charlie T.

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“A NEW LIFE” It is a warm, sunny day. The wind blows through my hair. I feel as if I am the king of the world. The train yells to get my attention. What’s inside the train today? A plate, a pin, a perfect pot? A fork, a fan, a feather? A knife, a kite or maybe a kazoo? It screeches to a stop. Inside was not what I thought. Sad and alone, they whimper and hide in the shadows of the train. Dirty and solitary, they gaze somberly out the window. They are cute and small. A light flickers inside of me to see them smile. How could I leave them? How could I let them suffer in the shadows? How could I let them be on their own in life? How could I drive away forgetting them there? Could I bring them home? What would she think to have two more? What would she think to make two more meals? What would she think to clean two more shirts? What would she do? She won’t mind. I can’t leave them in there in the dark. “Welcome to the light of our family,” I said as two more walked into my house, ready for a new life. —Morgan B.

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“I SAW A MOUSE RUNNING” I saw a mouse running through my little room in Mexico. I threw down a trap during the night. The next day, a grayish-black sphere lay on the trap. I put my glasses on: two scorpions were stuck on the sticky trap. One was small. The other was what we called The Mother of all Scorpions. It was huge— bigger than average. I brought them in to class. I greeted the kids. I looked at the trap. The mother of all scorpions was gone. The class flew into frenzy. I called my godson. He would know what to do. My godson arrived as quickly as possible. He began to check the room. On the table where the little scorpion lay, there was a vase. Right on the bottom of the vase was the mother. We threw it out of our classroom. We threw the little one out too. I wished it was just a mouse I had seen running. —Mackenzie B.

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“TAKEN” Two cars pull up on either side of me. I am blindfolded, thrown face-down into a car. I am driven for hours. I do not know where I will end up or when the car will stop. I am finally forced down into a huge pipe. My blindfold comes off. I am surrounded by darkness. I see nothing but the walls of the pipe. How long will I survive down here? I try to keep track of the days, but I lose count after seven. Months could pass, but how would I know? One meal a day is all I get— no more, no less. I start to think that I will never see the light of day again; that I will never see the brilliant blue of the sky. It feels as if centuries pass, but nothing changes. I try to remember who I am— who my family is. I don’t even remember my first daughter’s name. I think I am going crazy. Just when I think I can’t take it anymore— when I think I am about to go— they tell me to get up and I see the light of day again. People say I’m just a ghost of my old self. I think I’m just the same. —Charles P.

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“JESSE JAMES” Like a swift breeze, he is here. I open the door a crack and see him: a young man, urgent, in a hurry. We sit down and talk as he eats. We talk about many things— many things but that one thing. On the doorstep, out the door, the curiosity builds up inside me like root beer in a bottle, the cap a second away from popping off. Before I can pop, he turns to look at me. His eyes bore into me, burning holes. Suddenly, I sense all his feelings: Sorrow. Dominance. Regret. I open the envelope he hands me, my eyes as big as saucers. I look up in confusion, but he is gone. His presence still hangs in the air. He never tells me his name. —Andy M.

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“THE ARRIVAL” I am here, among the little children who babble in a foreign language. They don’t know what it’s like to be far away from home in a far-off land. I cannot talk to anyone. I am alone, trapped inside German and Yiddish. I am alone, until I meet Lorraine. Billst sein mein friend? She offers me her toys, even though I say I want none. Her parents are glad to have me at their home. They feel that they are helping the fight against the Germans by helping a refugee like me. Things get better. Slowly, I learn English. Soon, I am in third grade, where I belong. Soon, I am at home. —William S.

“EVERY MOMENT” I have never given much thought to how I will die. To die at the hand of something I never believed in seems worse. To know that I would never be able to kiss my wife when I get home from work; to be able to say how much I love her. To know that I would never be able to see my kids race up to me when they hear me come home; to hear their joy when I greet them. That is the hardest part: to know that I would never see another day. To know that makes every moment special. —Grace M. 25


“DIANA” The lounge. The better-than-first-class rooms. The sight of small shopping bags carefully placed on the belt. The agent who lied to save our journey. The reporters, the officials, the bodyguards. The Princess. The loss of special seats. The thrill of sitting in a machine we had helped to build. The amazing food and service. The chocolate mousse. Mach 1: the attempt at normalcy. Mach 2. The sight of home: England. You came back so quickly. —Oliver D.

“THE GUARDIAN” I look down from above, a guardian angel who looks after the ones I love: my family. They don’t know I am happy, happy without a life filled with pain, but don’t get me wrong: my life was great. I was an immigrant from Italy with a heart that was not my own. I can’t believe my family thinks my life has ended— because it hasn’t. —Grace G.

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“DUCK POND” We had played at the pond almost every day, starting at the playground and then going to see the ducks. We flew high on the swings to look down at the ducks over the dirt hill. We walked slowly down the hill so as not to fall. Maybe sometimes we would scrape our knees, but it was worth it to see little Eliza’s eyes pop with excitement as she saw the ducks, large and small, all in a row. Mom? Do people eat ducks? Was she concerned that the ducks might be harmed? Was she scared that she had eaten one? I tried to assure her that, yes, people eat ducks, but that it’s okay. I looked at her as she pondered that fact. I saw her eyes as they glossed over. I watched her run toward the pond and yell: “Then I’m going to catch us some dinner!” —Bella N.

“LEAP OF FAITH” We’re getting near the dock. Should I jump? Should I become my worst nightmare: a Nazi? The water looks rough. Chills spread up my spine. Ist jeder betriebsbereit? There are so many questions, but never any answers. I cannot let this opportunity slide. I have been waiting for this my whole life. General Achen says to us, Die Weltgeschichte ist auch die Summe dessen, was vermeidbar gewesen wäre— “The history of the world is also the sum of what might have been avoided.” I know my final decision, and, with a secret code of words, I know what the General will think of this. I’m in a new world now where peace and freedom are expected. I can live the life I was meant by God to live, and I will never look back on my journey to my new world with regret. —Coco F. 27


“A LETTER TO DAMIEN” You could have at least come to the reception. I didn’t put on this dress to impress my mom, but it looks like she and my grandma are the only ones who really care right now. So you’re sick. Big deal. It’s our wedding day! I don’t care if you have two minutes to live— you should be here, spending them with me. It took months to plan this, and a ton of money to decorate this place, and you’re not even here! I know every wedding has disasters, but, generally speaking, the groom shows up. I have dreamed of this day forever. It means the world to me. It was the day I would never be alone again; the day I would be one of two. So don’t you think it’s a little ironic that I spent the day by myself? —Lil B.

“PILFERING GREED” When I first heard the board break, I became apprehensive. No…It can’t be…Not those rascals— those filthy nobodies scouring the Emerald Isle for a crumb or two, feasting on helpless and frustrated dignitaries like me. When I heard the initial crunch of hay, my suspicions were confirmed. The scrawny figure barely kept his posture stable, his lack of food defeating him. How could I nab him? A trapdoor? A sentry? No. A good Christian would be ashamed. This morning, the priest said something about the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want— A cry startled me. Do I give or take? Indulge myself or save another? Just let them go? Just let him go? Just let him live? —Jack D. 28


“MT. RAINIER” Air rushes against my back as I fall, rapidly plummeting into the unknown. I land with a hard thud. White ice and snow encase me. I look below, and all I see is steam. I look above, and all I see are the dangling feet of another hiker. I try to calm myself with deep breaths. I feel as though I am in an action movie, just barely surviving the fall. I try everything to get up, but my ice pick lies flat behind me. All I can do is to wait for help from the others. After a series of long breaths, I am saved. I fly through the air toward the top just as I fell toward the bottom. —Sean H.

“LOST” Huge trees surround me as scary giants stare silently down. I don’t know where I am, all alone, crying. Ice cream freezes my tears. Unfamiliar, friendly faces comfort me. Suddenly, I am taller than the giants. I hear frantic voices in the distance as they search below. I soar through the air as I hear my name echo off the forest floor. Found. They went looking for a little boy. They found a giant. —Lucy H.

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“ADOLPH” “Aaaaaa-dolph!” The words meant nothing to Stephanie, but, as they came out of her mouth, her grandfather, Adolph, laughed in the background. Stephanie stood there, not knowing what she had done wrong. She had only recited the poem her grandfather had taught her. Why was her grandmother acting so weird? It was just a poem— a poem in Hungarian. The house of Hungarian tea party guests stood there with blank faces. They did not know how to react to a five-year-old reciting a poem— an impolite poem— delivered in their language. It was another one of her grandfather’s pranks that got him in trouble. —Charlotte C.

“ROAD TRIP” Summer, 1963: I was ten years old. My parents sent me off to Florida all by myself. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. Take the Trailways bus; take the Jaguar bus. Confused. I stopped in Philly and stayed there for a week. Then I was gone. I stopped in North Carolina. Segregation. The signs said “White Only”; “Black Only.” People looked at me like I was crazy. Confused. The trip ended in Tallahassee, Florida when I met my parents. Now I could start my vacation. No longer confused. —Charles C. 30


“THE BIG GORILLA SUIT” I hope I don’t see her. I hope she doesn’t show. But then she does: dressed in that big gorilla suit, ready to attack. Every year, she shows up at school on my birthday handing out invitations to people I don’t even like. I need to hide. Everyone knows. I saw it coming, but still… I start to sweat. I say, “I don’t know who that is.” They know I am lying. I imagine the party: little pink balloons with rainbow stars. —Teagan M.

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“HOCKEY PUCK” One of my favorite activities was to sit and watch hockey games with my brother, Scott. Around lunch, the game started. We both were hungry. Scott stood up to go get some hot dogs and a drink for both of us. The game had just begun. A player made a shot, but it didn’t go into the net. Another player swung his stick instead of the puck and, instead of going into the goal, it went straight at me. The puck flew so quickly that I barely noticed. I heard it “Smack!” against the spot where Scott would have been sitting if he hadn’t gotten up. The puck broke the seat. The rest of the crowd was quiet. I was in shock. Today, twenty years later, I still think: What would have happened if Scott had been sitting there? Hey: at least he still has the puck. —Lauren D.

“SHAVING” “Skippity doo dah, skippity day My oh my, what a wonderful day!” I sing to myself as I skip home from school. I wave to everyone I see because I am so happy. When I get home, my mom asks why I am not at school. I tell her that I just got kicked out of the third grade— because I hadn’t shaved. —Jack C.

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“VIETNAM” “We have to go back!” All the men on the boat begin to discuss the problem. Option one: we go back and face a higher chance of being caught. Option two: we keep going and face a higher risk of death. We choose option one. We land on a small island and swim to the next island. My friends and I swim with some other men. The women and children didn’t know how to swim. I’m pretty sure the women and children got caught. I am already exhausted when my friends and I see patrol guards. We hide. I run into the bushes and am stung by some bees. We all meet up and start to running. There are thorns stuck in our feet. We run to the road and try to hitchhike. Somehow, we make it home. My grandmother helps to pull the thorns from my feet. —Ethan P.

“THE SURPRISE” It was the busiest part of the day in South Africa. I approached five intersecting roads. I turned to the right, right into oncoming left-side traffic. I had no idea what was happening. I got out of the car and stared at a sea of black faces. I did not know what to do. A man stepped forward and said, “Not to worry, mon.” He moved my car to the proper side of the road. I was shocked beyond belief. They had helped me; assisted me; forgiven me. —Piero P. 33


“THE BEAR SIGHTING” Ugh. I am home alone once again. As I flip through channels, I am interrupted by a knock at the door. I walk to the door and look through the glass only to find a set of brown eyes lurking in the darkness. A bear?! Oh my gosh! I think it’s a bear! I let out an ear-splitting scream— and so, to my surprise, does he. Why was he screaming? Was there something behind me? Someone behind me? I quickly turn on my heels. Nope. No one there. As I turn back, I stop screaming and carefully open the door. “I’m just here to deliver a package, ma’am,” he says. —Caitlin E.

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“A BRAND-NEW COAT FOR CHRISTMAS” As summer turned to fall, all of the kids in my neighborhood started to wear their coats. A new style— blue, with a red stripe down the arms— was selling in the stores. I showed my mom. “Maybe for Christmas,” she said. The weeks went by. My brother and I checked to see where our presents were hidden and what was in the boxes. No coat. One more day until Christmas: not a coat in those boxes. Finally, Christmas came. “Patrick, I got a special present for you!” I opened the box, and there it was: the coat I really wanted. Two weeks later, I was wearing my coat while walking home from school and saw a rope swing. I rushed to the swing, and a large boy named Mahabo jumped on the swing with me. It broke. “Look what you did!” I yelled at Mahabo. We tumbled down the hill. When I got to my feet, I was covered with mud from head to toe. —Jaida W.

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“ABYSSINIAN NIGHT” I set up for the night and lie down on my bedroll. My legs are sore from marching all day; my face is raw from sunburn. I think about my family. I miss my home; my friends. But this is a great adventure— the greatest adventure of all— and I do it for my country. As I drift into sleep, I notice how warm the bedroll is and how soft it feels, almost as if I am in the presence of someone I love. Dawn comes. I am still warm, and I wonder why. As I open my eyes, I understand: sleeping next to my bedroll is the largest ostrich I have ever seen. I know how dangerous these animals are. I know that these beasts can kill a grown man, if provoked. I remove the bedroll, carefully making sure not to disturb the bird. As I back away, its head lifts. It slowly rises from its deep sleep and stares at me with large, sad eyes. Then it turns and walks away. —Luke H.

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“PRESSURIZED LIES” Words mesh together. They leave lies behind: no homework. They won’t find out. Maybe, when I am out of high school, they will finally figure out my lies; my messed-up stories. The teachers walk toward me in the old stairwell. The lies boxed up in my head begin to cut the tape. The pressure boils, and blackness carries me to sleep. The lies have been unscrambled once more. I should have known. —Isabella W.

“CRICKET” I grab the ball as we face off against our rivals. If we make this last out, the match is ours. I bowl the ball at the wicket. It is the quickest I can throw. My passion for the sport gives me strength. The batter swings and misses. When the ball goes by him, I jump up into the air with my hands held high. —Edward R.

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“MARATHON” I finish the marathon: 26.2 miles. Done, completed, finished. I walk to the Westin Copley hotel. I grab my bag and my belongings, put on my sweatshirt, and get some water. I hear a loud boom across the street. It doesn’t sound good. The receptionist says, “It’s probably just a canon.” It is Patriot’s Day. They shoot canons. But I know what I hear. It isn’t a canon. Something is wrong. I was walking in New York on 9/11. I know. I ask, “Where are the stairs?” The receptionist shows me an elevator. “No! Where are the stairs?” I rush down the stairs as quick as a cheetah. Outside, everything looks as normal as the blue sky. Except then I see the people running away from the finish line. —Madison M.

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“BABY MARY” When the baby came, my whole world turned upside down. They told me she wouldn’t live. I refused to believe it. Deep down, I knew they were right. All the things I thought we could do together wouldn’t happen. All the things I had hoped for her she couldn’t do. My baby Mary wouldn’t be my baby Mary. I hoped and hoped and prayed and prayed everyone was wrong. I put my Mary in a drawer with all the warm things I could find; with blankets and hot water; with anything I could think of that could save my Mary. Over the years, I have watched my baby grow and grow until the worst day of my life when we went our separate ways. I’ve thought of her every day since. Little did I know that she’d be the one to prove the doctors wrong. —Eva E.

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“BOMBING” I draw the curtains tight, quaking with fear. Lights flicker. Crack! Blackout. I am blanketed in darkness. I reach for a candle, nestling beneath the warm, assuring glow of the candlelight. I feel the quakes of my family as we huddle together and use each other for reassurance. In the distance, a bomber jet purrs softly like a kitten patiently waiting for its meal. I peer through the window. A light flickers. A home collapses into a heap. Flames lick and dance around us. They nip at our house, at the grass, at the trees. The smoke grows thicker. I hear cackles mingle with the smell of salty tears and helpless sobs— wails in the distance. The jet has gone, but not for long. It will return. —Saloni J.

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“VAMPIRE HORSE” It was uncontrollable. It could not be stopped. And it was mine. The biggest and meanest horse in all of Round Pond, Maine was mine. The guide said, “Gallop!” I refused, but my horse had other ideas. It was mine. I held on for dear life as I heard a little girl crying, her dad yelling, and my horse’s teeth clacking. —Reed V.

“THE SET UP” We were spread in different social circles at the same college. Three years later: a phone call, but no connection; no conversation. Three years after that: a meeting by chance outside the bagel shop. Our eyes locked together. Three years after that: the timing is right. Three friends conspire to set us on on a fateful night in late summer. Click! A connection is made, and the rest is history. —Ella M.

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“SPY ON A TRAIN” My heart was beating faster faster faster until everything seemed in slow motion. As the tall, fear-driven soldiers waltzed toward me every step closer closer and closer until they snatched my book away from me with a swift, strong motion. The wind blew the pages of the book against my face just as I had brushed through the soldiers at the prison without leaving a trace. I started to break a sweat. The warm, slimy water dripped down my face, making me look even more suspicious. Their faces turned more serious as they checked through every page of my fake book. Everything was terrible. They were going to catch me. I would be back in jail. “Your book is fine,” the soldier said. “You’re okay to go.” I was hit with a breeze of relief. —Emerson B.

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“A NICE HAT” In memory of Max Petschek The morning is bright as I walk into a restaurant with friends. We chat and laugh with each other until our sides hurt and our eyes weep. We wear hats, as most men do in our time, round bowler and straw hats. The kind waitress takes our orders with a small notepad and pencil. As we wait, we talk about our lives and our jobs. The waitress arrives with our food and delivers each plate with a smile. The food is delicious. We dig in right away. When we are done, the waitress takes our plates and hands us the bill. As we pay, we tip generously for her kind service. We leave, leaving a smile on her face. As I walk down the street, I remember my hat. I had left it on the chair at the restaurant. I turn back and enter the restaurant again, but this time not to stay. “Have you seen a hat?” I ask a waitress, pointing toward the table where we had sat. “Why, yes. Was it yours?” She holds up my hat like a specimen under observation. “Yes it is, thank you,” I say as I grab my hat from her grasp. “Oh, don’t thank me,” she replies. “If it had been a nice hat, it would have been taken already!” —Amy P.

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“THE MYSTERIOUS SWOOSH BUS” What is the Swoosh Bus? It’s too dark to see inside the window; too mysterious. Swoosh… I never thought I would find out what the bus was for until one day: Swoosh… As I walked to Hebrew school, I saw the black, mysterious bus at the church. I saw the swoosh. Swoosh… It turns out that the bus is a luxury bus for workers commuting in the wrong direction: New York to Westport. I wonder where the bus sleeps during the day. Swoosh… It was the only thing I could think about on the way to school. The next morning, the mystery was revealed: Swoosh… —Elliot K.

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“9-1-1” I hear a loud crash. I look outside through the window. My eyes see billowing smoke rising from the building and a tilted antenna. I think my office is fine, but: What if it gets worse? What if the antenna falls? Is my son safe? I follow my instincts. I had better get out. It’s a gut feeling. My heart drops. I get in the cab. We race up the West Side Highway to get my son. It is his second day of high school uptown. I crane my neck to look out the back window: I see more smoke. A plane flies into the second building. The fire rages. —Alexandra N.

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Writing the Past (2013)  

This yearly assignment is simple: each sixth grader has to sit down with a relative—father, mother, grandparent, brother, sister, uncle, aun...

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