I have known for a long time that I come from a long line of storytellers. Writers, musicians, poets, thespians, and artists abound in my family tree. However, I was unaware that my paternal grandmother was not only a brilliant seamstress and artist, but she was also an aspiring writer.
This week, a gift was shared with me by a cousin: folders of written pages by my Grandma when she was taking Composition classes at our local university a couple years after my Grandpa died suddenly of a heart attack. I have so enjoyed getting to know my Grandma a little bit more (she died of cancer when I was in high school) through these yellowed handwritten (and a few typed on a TYPEWRITER) pages. I thought it would be fun to share some of it here on this blog.
The following was written during an in-class free-writing exercise.. I am sure many of you will relate to her words as I did.
Why must I write this essay?
by Martha Williams
I am handed two sheets of clean white paper, along with the rest of the English composition class, and told to take my pen and free write for about twenty minutes. The topic is on “The Persuasive Theme” and my mind is as blank as the paper before me.
Now, anyone who knows me will tell you I am an argumentative son-of-a-gun and will take sides at the drop of a hat, any side, both sides, up one side and down the middle.
The girl next to me who has been writing steadily, suddenly crumples up her paper and tosses it in the wastebasket and the class gets a laugh and I agree, out loud, that “that is how I feel, too.”
Surely in my head, that has been crammed with ideas and knowledge since childhood, there must be something I can write about with some intelligence, presenting one side clearly and yet showing the opposite side for reasonable doubt. What does one do on the days when no sensible thought appears?
For two days, and longer, this essay has been on the edge of my mind. I’ve known the whole semester that I would have to do it some day and I still am here, stymied, dumb, no thoughts at all in my head.
Would the teacher accept a note with the explanation that I just couldn’t think of a thing to write about? No – I don’t think so. She might be sympathetic, but since she’s passed this way before, she’d expect me to come up with something. After all, she did it, didn’t she?
“The Zoo at Glen Miller Park is Shameful.” Now there’s a really good subject and I can get into it with both feet. I love animals, especially exotic ones; lions, tigers, peacocks, and all the little woods animals; the bear, the silly monkeys that look like members of my family tree; they are beautiful, cuddly, and soft. Or are they? Out at the Glen, they’re dirty and cross and smelly and evil looking and who wouldn’t be? Now the other side of the argument – there isn’t one. Well, scrap that idea.
My little friend in the next seat is going through a painful period of finding her worth in a world of people whom she thinks have everything while God has somehow passed her by. I could write on that theme. I certainly know a few things about that. Some day she’ll learn that the pain she’s going through is her growth in body, mind, and spirit and she’ll recognize it and be thankful for it. Her sorrow is only one of many kinds, but I can’t tell her that. When you hurt, you hurt and no one else’s pain compares at all with yours. She’s OK and she’s going to be better. I don’t want to get into that subject anyhow. I can solve my own problems and no one ever is popular who preaches one way or another on any phase of religion. Who wants to be told, “just forget it, it’s happened before”?
It’s time to pass papers around for editing and ideas. Good, that always helps and if I need anything at all today, I need help for this paper.
The first gal doesn’t really think I’m serious because I’ve been so silly today. She is kind and laughs at my silliness, but the young man is trying to help and makes me a list of good reasons for why I should write a debating paper. Bless them both.
Well why should I? I’m working for credits for this course. I have to earn them, no one’s going to say, poor little old lady, we’ll give her good grades as our good deed for today. At least I hope no one is going to do that! And then, even with earned credits, I’ll be a freshman for thirty years at the rate I’m going. As kind as the good Lord has been to me, I don’t think He’ll be that patient. So why do I work so hard?
Well, what if I do have time to earn a B.A. degree; to take all the subjects I’ve yearned with all my heart to take for 42 years? To fill my self with the knowledge that this little gal has got a lot on the ball after all these years? Wouldn’t I crow? From the top of the highest tree I would!
So I’d better stop foolin’ around and get busy.
written sometime around 1980 for Composition I at Indiana University East
I was so touched to know that my Grandma would be proud of me. Although she never got to finish her B.A. degree, I did; and now I know that when I was handed that diploma from Indiana University East 25 years later, she was smiling down on me.