it’s been raining, and it’s about to rain again but even dogs who don’t like rain, need walks so Finn and I walk down, around, through the park, back up and around he sniffs the rain-green grass, I sniff the air the smell of the wood burning stove from the house on the corner is my favorite
we cross the quiet street on a diagonal avoid a Prius silently coming closer finn loves the sound of a Prius it’s the sound of someone coming home he stops at the corner, head turned wags his tail sits at perfect attention won’t budge when I ask him to I don’t have the heart to force him, show him I’m boss
the Prius parks the man stares at us Finn’s tail keeps wagging expectantly I want to explain to the man my dog thinks you’re his dad he doesn’t understand that our Prius doesn’t come home anymore that is why we are standing on the corner staring at you and the rain-green grass
I used to bring Gertrude to my sixth-grade classroom to help kick off our “Muppet” project. In between the yearly projects, she lived with my parents.
It’s been 5 years since I’ve taught sixth grade. (That’s crazy!) So the other day my parents asked me if I still wanted Gertrude. I guess they were tired of her freeloading.
Suddenly, I ached for my sixth-graders and our Muppet projects. I thought about it for a minute and realized it might be fun to ask kids in my schools what Gertrude’s story might be.
“I wonder if I can get a teacher or two to let me do this with them,” I thought.
It took me a few days, but I finally remembered that I co-run a Writers’ Club. What luck! Kids! Ready for a writing invitation!
Gertrude traveled with me to school today, and I took her down to meet some classes. The first class was working on PSSA practice, and as much as Gertrude wanted to interrupt that (she’s not a fan of standardized tests) I moved on to a second-grade classroom around the corner. Then onto first grade . . . By the end of the day, Gertrude had met every class.
I told the kids that Gertrude didn’t know her story. She needed a story!
“Gertrude was lonely at my parents’ house. She wanted to come to school for Writer’s Club. But, she wanted to meet kids before she went to Writers’ Club, so she wouldn’t be too nervous,” I explained.
“Why is she even here when we aren’t even allowed to go to Writers’ Club?” a kindergartner said. I told her what I told every class K-2: “Maybe when you get to be in third grade, you’ll join Writer’s Club!”
“Wow,” I thought as kids crowded around us, trying to be quiet since they understood Gertrude was still pretty shy. “This is a pretty good advertisement for Writers’ Club!“
Of course, kids of all ages wanted to know what Gertrude was.
“Is she a dog?” “Is she a bird?”
“She’s a gertrude.”
You might have to meet Gertrude to understand her magic. The way she walks is peaceful, almost mesmerizing. You can’t help but stare at her. She’s quiet and shy but brings out the best smiles. As I walked down the hall with her, kids of all ages said, “Hi Gertrude!” and asked me more questions about her.
I have a feeling that if I don’t take her with me next time I’m walking down the hall, the kids won’t talk to me anymore…
I didn’t know what would happen at Writers’ Club, but the magic of Gertrude plus the magic of the young writers did not disappoint. I invited the kids to write about Gertrude, for Gertrude, and to make bird puppets that could be in a story with her.
“But what is a gertrude?” one boy asked, “I don’t find her when I google!”
I told him that someone would have to make her a google entry. “What would her wikipedia page say?”
And friends, when the two girls came up to read me their nonfiction article all about Gertrude, it was a dream come true. They had a description of gertrudes, and talked about how loud noises scare them. They described a gertrude habitat and diet, and ended with a story of a gertrude named Gertrude. They printed their story and put it on our Gertrude story wall.
The bird puppet makers wanted to make sure I brought Gertrude next week so they could write their stories down, and as they started to clean up, a writer came up to me and said, “I know what Gertrude’s favorite food is. Avacado.”
So, needless to say, we added a fast fact section just for Gertrude.
It was the after-school Writers’ Club again today. As kids were filtering in, and my co-teacher was taking attendance, I was chatting with kids.
“I wish Writers’ Club was on Mondays,” one said, “because then we’d have something to really look forward to about Mondays.”
At the table next to him, a girl popped her head up from her snack to add “Writers’ Club is the highlight of my Tuesday.” Her friend sitting across from her took the perfect pause before saying, “Writers’ Club is the only thing I have on Tuesdays, so . . . ”
As I made a quick direction chart before the end of the school day, I wondered if making the chart would make it less enticing than the sneaky spur-of-the-moment style from last time.
But, somehow, as kids went off to write, several came up for index cards, sharpies, and scissors. As each writer, or partnership came to the supply cart, I asked them what they were going to write, and cheered inside when they said “I want to try cut-out stories!”
My co-writer from last time was trying to get our pieces back in order, and two girls walked up to join our story. Next to us a few kids were creating their own stick figure stories, and at 2 tables at the end of the cafeteria, I could see more stick figure story work happening.
Our new co-writers fit right in. Soon all four of us were drawing, cutting, writing, and making.
One of the girls didn’t talk much and her friend said, “She doesn’t really talk.”
I said, “But she can draw! Look at that!” and we both looked over at the cat being sketched on an index card.
“And really that’s all that matters,” my co-writer told me.
I have to confess – it was super fun. I asked the kids if they thought that maybe I could have a job where all I did was make cut-out stick figure stories with kids all day.
They thought it was doable, for sure. One girl looked at me very seriously and said, “You are going to need a lot of index cards.”
Soon, we were done. So we got some construction paper, and the kids glued the story down. They aren’t sure if they want to staple it now, or maybe put it up like a comic strip.
“Can you believe this story started with just one little stick figure?” I asked my original co-writer. He just shook his head with wonder. And then, before he left to go home, he stopped me at the supply cart to ask me a question.
“Can I take some index cards home so I can write another story?”
I remember sitting on my fiance’s mom’s bed after her husband’s funeral. I was on a corded landline, talking with my high school drama teacher. It was just weeks before my wedding. She told me she hoped I wouldn’t let the death of my fiance’s dad pressure me into changing my name. I didn’t. I kept my name.
I remember my daughter’s birth. I didn’t want to have a name different from hers. So, I filled out paperwork, updated my license and taught everyone at school to call me by my new title. One of the secretaries never got it right. For years, she would call me over the PA system by my old name. I knew she was talking to me though.
A few weeks ago, after my divorce was officially final, I called the Social Security Office, confused. In order to prove I was a real person, I needed all kinds of paperwork. It seemed silly since somewhere I still have the Social Security card that I got when I was like 12. I wondered why I couldn’t just use that and pretend the last few decades never happened. Instead I had to have my doctor’s office give me paperwork proving who I was. Thankfully the doctor agreed, I am indeed a real person.
Today I opened the mail from Social Security and pulled out my new card.
So now, I am officially the old me with my new (old) name on my new social security card that looks a lot like my old old card