Sunday, December 27 2020

from the homework vault: eight grade grammar



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All of the following excerpts were written for my eight grade grammar class. The truth is I loved grammar, and all that year it weighed on me that eight grade was the end of our grammar curriculum.

My teacher was the sweet and kind Mrs. Walton. Her corner class room was cozy and well lit. She was laid back, and at the same time tidy. A big American flag hung on the wall behind her, always in the background while she was speaking - and I thought that was funny.

I didn’t try to hide the fact that I loved her class. I sat in the teacher’s pet seat closest to her desk with my back facing the rest of the classroom. We’d even sometimes have side conversations while every one else was quietly studying.

She was upfront and down to earth. She was one of those teachers that respected our time too much to give us busy work. She’d handpick the assignments from our text book, skipping over the ones that sounded “dumb” or “boring”, and that made me want to put the effort in.

2020 12 27 studying

In a yearbook photo collage of students doing fun things, of course I'd be the one doing Math homework.

Jackson

Over Spring Break, I went on a missions trip to Jackson, Mississippi. That trip was so meaningful to me that I actually felt depressed returning home. Writing about the trip helped me deal with the culture shock.

During the day, we helped demolish a building, and in the evenings we studied the Bible and hung around. These little descriptive paragraphs make me smile, because they take me back to a time where I was most at peace with everything around me and most hopeful for the future.

Date: 4/14/05

I stand at the entrance to the kitchen of an aged, two-story house.  The room is covered in an inconspicuous wall color, possibly manila, and is bustling with about a dozen people, many being my age.  Every one is busily and cheerfully cooking in groups of two or three.  The smell of the food is quite pleasing as well as the atmosphere.  It is nearly dinnertime, and they are mainly making Mexican food to accompany the evening appetite.  The kitchen is rather large, divided by a marble island with a sink on both sides of the room.  All that can be heard is the clanging of metal ware, the hiss of the running faucet, some casual eighth grade conversation, and faint background music from a stereo in the corner.  The room temperature is moderate and comfortable, and there is much joy in everyone.
Date: 4/12/05
Through the tinted window of a clumsy van I could appreciate the scenery of West Jackson, Mississippi.  There was not a cloud in the sky, and the air was sweet to breathe.  The bright atmosphere and lush grass shone with glee.  Distant buildings and motels looked like images from a painting.  As we swerved through the streets, we passed by many run-down houses with rotting wood and boarded windows and doors.  Old men were sitting on their porches, observing all that passed their way as children ran around on their front lawns.
2020 12 27 handful

I was the definition of hot teenage angst.

Danger Island

This story happened while we were on vacation. My dad took us out on a rental boat, and we passed by a beach front that looked so perfect and picturesque that we decided to dock and check it out on foot. Looks can be deceiving.

Date: 12/07/04
Title: Danger Island

I was on vacation.  It was the beautiful North Captiva Island down in Florida.  Strangely, this event turned out to be far from beautiful and pleasant.  We were accompanied on the trip with a family that was good friends of ours.  To prevent the vacation from being a merely feckless week of the typical sunbathing and eating at various restaurants, my father proposed that we would rent a boat for some recreational fishing.  The family unanimously agreed and we all drove away with an array of fishing gear.  The boat was a fine vessel; we stacked our tackle boxes into a trunk in the stern and sped off with much confidence and excitement.  The boat skipped along the water like it was weightless.  Slowing to a halt, we began what we came there to do- fish.  After fishing for an hour, we noticed that we were all quite hungry.  We had brought several sack lunches.  However, it proved very difficult to eat on a boat in the middle of the choppy tide.  My father panned the horizon.  He spotted an island in the distance.  He then hit the gas and we were once again skipping along the surface.  The island gradually grew in appearance as we approached the beach.  Suddenly, the buzz of the motor was interrupted with a distinct crack.  Rocks present in the surrounding shallow water had struck and seriously damaged our propeller.  We had no way of slowing down.  The boat jerked; we frantically hurled ourselves overboard and plunged into the water.  I sat up in the water and looked upon our boat being tossed up and down violently in a threatening manner.  It was quickly moving closer; it would soon trample my fragile body and stomp it into the ocean floor.  I hurdled out of the water and lunged away from the danger, hitting the dry sand further up the beach with a small puff.  I jumped up and turned to see the rest of my family screaming and running as well.  The elephantine vessel tipped high upward one last time and hit the sandy ground with a small thump.  We shoved it back out to sea and sailed away with, to my surprise, only a bent rudder and propeller.  The two petrified families all sat Indian-style on the boat’s deck and quietly bit into our little ham and cheese sandwiches.  We survived “Danger Island.”

It’s true. We only stayed on the island for about sixty seconds. A few of us managed to jump off the boat, and I remember watching the bow thrash with the waves wondering if someone was going to be crushed. My sisters made it onto the sand, but immediately scurried back after finding the island was infested with insects.

My Most Embarassing Moment

Nothing beats a good puke story. Whether I’m telling the story in 2004 or 2020, my memory of yakking all over the sweet girl who sat in front of me in first grade is burned into my memory and I couldn’t forget it if I tried.

Date: 10/25/04
Title: My Most Embarassing Moment

I walked into a typical first grade day thinking that everything was going to be terrific.  It’s too bad that I was wrong.  The first few classes, as I recall, flew by quickly; but by the time I was running around at P.E. class, I was beginning to be overtaken by a slight “tummy ache,” as we first graders dubbed it.  Even so, I thought nothing of it and continued on with my life.  Though the nauseousness was steadily growing, I finally made it to the end of the day- story time.  Anxious do get out of school and go home, I strapped and zipped my puffy Chicago Bulls winter coat and stuffed my tiny red back pack with the day’s homework.  My teacher whipped out a little green Dr. Sues book and began rambling its mindless, rhyming chants.  I sat listening; that’s all I could do.  I not only listened to that crazy book, but to the boring, churning of my stomach.  I was sweating and pale as a ghost. Her voice began to fade by page three as I felt an awful substance crawl up my throat and fill my mouth.  There was no stopping it now.  I expelled my chicken nuggets, nachos, and lemonade on everybody and everything within a three-foot span of my seat.  That was a little embarrassing.

What a surreal day. My puffy red coat sticks out in this terrible memory because it made me feel that much more ridiculous standing there while Mrs. Connon dabbed my own puke off of me with paper towels. I don’t even think I got sick. Just some food that didn’t sit well in my weird little kid stomach.

The Peanut Guy

My dad used to take my sisters and I to Cubs games. Between the three of us kids, nobody gave a rip about baseball, but Wrigley field was still a fun place to be even if you didn’t care about the game. A trip to Wrigley always meant a trip into the city, junk food, and silly encounters with drunk Chicago sports fans - like in this case, the peanut guy.

Date: 2/14/05
Title: The Peanut Guy

Buildings glimmered and traffic lights flashed as we inched through the busy streets of the heart of Chicago.  Alleys, sidewalks, and roads were crawling with pedestrians and drivers, all slowly making their way to Wrigley Field.  My father, sister, cousin, and I, all dressed in Cubs apparel, were also heading to this same destination.  It was going to be a fine match; that was always, and rightly, expected whenever the White Sox went against our Cubbies.

After parking our car, walking quite a long distance, navigating through the massive crowds, and purchasing some "junk food," we sat down to watch the game.  When a few innings had passed, I noticed that it began to rain.  The pattering on the ground became faster by the minute, until the game was overshadowed by a full-fledged thunderstorm.  The game would be delayed until the rain would cease.   Immediately after the players ran off the field, a small army of staff in red coats marched into the middle of the arena and unrolled an enormous blue tarp that covered the infield.  We sat in disappointment and ate; that's all we could do.

In what seemed to be the worst of the doleful event, a glimmer of optimism and kindness arose in the form of a loud, slightly overweight man.  He turned to the surrounding sea of fans and hollered, "Who wants peanuts?"

He was wielding about three bags between his greasy fingers and grinned freely.  He cocked his arm back and launched the salty snacks through the air and into the flock of beckoning hands.  He gave a bow and plopped back into his seat.  Curiously, I watched the man call the peanut vendor again and deal him a handful of bills in exchange for more peanuts.  Sure enough, he jumped out of his chair just as he did before.  The crowd, recognizing the gesture, cheered as a larger flock of arms sprung up to catch his gifts.  One by one, he randomly tossed the bags to his new adoring fans.  He yelled out through the roar of the people, "Let's give it up for the peanut man!"

We certainly did just that.  The whole section of seats was clapping in gratitude as he sat down again and laughed with his buddy.

The peanut man showed that one kind, spontaneous act can brighten up any day.  We should all show the same kind of selflessness as he did. The amount of food that he gave away cost him over at least twenty dollars.  In the same way, we should be willing to give in a way that he did, no matter how much the "pretzels" cost.

Not really sure what pretzels meant in that metaphor. Usually for these grammar book writing assignments, I just ignored the premise and told a funny story instead. For this one, I attempted to shoehorn in the theme “generous acts” with a half baked conclusion.