Of Dragonflies and Spaghetti: A Memoir

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Wipe up that mess; I just mopped the floor, young lady. His gold crucifix sparkled as it dangled from its thick chain. I was always amazed at his choice of dress for cleaning the house on Sunday mornings: Secretly, I wanted him to wear baseball hats, jeans and brown leather moccasins like the other dads from my kindergarten class at St.

I suspected the other dads watched football instead of chasing their kids around with a mopina , wiping up the left-behind crumbs and fingerprints. One Sunday morning, I asked my father why mom was never home to make the Julio sauce. It was not until my eleventh year that I saw him attend St. He had him over for Julio sauce a few times, too. When my mother finally came home from church after what seemed like an eternity, we would set the table together. I stood on a chair by the kitchen window that faced the street and waited for her white Oldsmobile to come cruising home, with a Taylor Dayne cassette playing loudly out her window.

Tell it to my heart In the house when the four of us were finally together, I would saver those few moments we had, waiting with excitement for the rest of our family to arrive. My grandmother manned her post at the stove like a conductor before a great symphony, my father would find another smudge to yell about, and my mother would cover his intensity with a light-hearted, infectious blanket of laughter. These Sundays on Walnut Street and our togetherness before a bubbling pot of Julio sauce made the house a home. Twenty years later, my new husband Adam and I unpack cardboard boxes in the kitchen of our first house, and the emptiness of a strange place and a different life makes us both feel nervous.

Digging through a box of pots and pans, I mumble to myself that I need to teach Adam how to make Julio sauce. He looks up at me, sweat pouring down his forehead from hauling boxes all morning. My eyes fix on him, and I think about what I have just said. I am probably more surprised than he to hear myself say that phrase again after all these years. I smile and feel a lump beginning to weld up in my throat. My grandmother is dead now, my parents are older, and I am married.

I place a large pot on top of the stove. Standing in the cool autumn dark among the rescue vehicles, I was mesmerized and nearly blinded by the strobe-effect of the emergency lights. I stared blankly at the deputy bending over my grandmother; the brim of his black hat nearly rested on the top her head as he gestured officially with his clipboard. An oversized white purse lolled heavily from her elbow.

Nearby her Subaru stammered and stuttered as it idled, its left headlight slowly dying.

From where I stood, I could see the figure of the young man reflected in the thick lenses of her glasses. His body was awash in a freakish blue halogen light and he appeared to be pancaked into the pavement. His legs, grotesquely bent, lay at impossible angles. A single red and black high top, laced tightly, rested hard by his knee. The sneaker looked old and filthy but the socked foot next to it was incongruously clean and brilliantly luminescent. I willed him there. My eyes strayed from him. I could, for the first time, see his incandescently pale and twisted face. His long dark hair lay matted and sticky about his shoulders.

I stood in that ruin and wondered what was expected of me. The dispatcher had phoned to say that I was needed. I wondered what I would say to my seventy-three year old grandma? Would she be arrested? Why was she driving at night? This last question made me blanch. I had heard this line of questioning before in family circles and it normally ended badly for grandma.

I worried that someone would actually say to her, I told you so. Even as these thoughts raced through my head, I was reminded of that bored, misadventurous young boy whose heart used to thrill with excitement when the sirens atop the village fire hall began to sink and swell.

Real Action , I thought then. Joey and I, minutemen each, mobilized within seconds of hearing the initial wail of the siren.

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He lunged for his Huffy, and I raced to my Schwin. Yanking our bikes out of my yard we might not hit the brakes until the stop sign at Washington Street. A Blitzkrieg of skinned knees and snotty noses, we frantically pumped our bikes toward the firehouse. On our way we craned or necks for the telltale signs of smoke and ruin.

With luck, we thought, we might make it, panting and red-faced, to the corner of South and Main in time to see the yellow and red diesels belching black clouds, as they erupted onto the street. Like cavalrymen standing tall in the saddle, we stood on our pedals and pulled furiously on our handlebars to gain speed and leverage on the pavement; our bikes bucked from side to side beneath us.

Up ahead the fire trucks gathered momentum and screamed through intersections leaving us far behind. We, from our chase positions, could only watch helplessly and skulk home acting for all the world like unrequited lovers. Though used to failure, we had one great success, the fire at the abandoned Kimberly Hardware building.

We stood cordoned behind yellow tape, watching awestruck as the stick frame building spouted flame and collapsed in on itself in a grand finale of sparks and smoke. The paramedic had stopped his thrusting and listening and had begun packing and checking. He chatted casually with small groups of volunteers who had approached his rig. His work was over. His charge lay unattended. The viscid puddle steamed in the glare of the lights like a cooling kettle.

How different his broken body was from those I had seen sleeping serenely at funeral homes; or those wasted bodies that I had viewed through long-range-video feeds on TV. Across my vision the deputy led grandma, like a lamb, to the nearest cruiser. She pulled her skirt under as he held open the back door, and she sat. He shut the door with a gentle click. My heart shoe-horned itself into my mouth.

It was real like the image of grandma sitting erect and trembling in the cavernous back seat of the cruiser, her eyes rimming red. Real like the smell of gasoline that permeated the air. It was ugly and it was messy and it smelled and you could bring it home on your shoes. I felt sick and ashamed that I had ever wished to see such tragedy. Grandma does not talk about the police or the attorneys or the trials. She never mentions the fingerprinting or Breathalyzer or the handcuffs.

I have never heard her plead her case, although at the civil trial it was determined that the he had overshot a stop sign in the dark. The young man ran into her grandma never even touched her brakes. At eighty-seven she is a marvel. Forged from graceful steel, she lives alone, gardens, bakes everyday, and is chauffer to many of her friends.

Yes, she still drives. But if she is out grocery shopping or visiting a friend, and the shadows begin to lengthen, she steals away. The night will always find her home watching TV with all the houselights on. Before answering any of the questions below, write your initial reaction to the story. Does the writer tell the story adequately and clearly? Do you understand what happened? What are your questions? Does the writer interpret the significance of the event and reveal the truths that underlie it?


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What does the memory reveal about the writer's life? In addition to telling the reader what happened, does the writer reveal how she thought or felt about the event?

In retrospect, as the writer looks back at the event, what does he or she think and feel? Where could the writer include more of his or her thoughts and feelings? At which points in the story could the writer include more exploration of the significance of the event? Does the writer use vivid, specific, and striking details? Underline each instance of vivid, specific, and striking detail. Does the writer show rather than tell, using action rather than explanation?

Where should the writer show us rather than tell us what happened or transpired? Is the story told in a straightforward linear fashion or does the narrator use flashbacks and jump back and forth in time? If flashback is not used, where might it be applicable? Does the piece begin with a strong lead that engages the readers and interests them? If not, can you suggest an alternate lead? Does the title serve as a doorway into the story? If not, can you suggest a more appropriate title? The ENG class is compiling an anthology of genre studies appropriate for students in middle school and high school.

Your audience is a middle school or high school teacher who has not conducted a whole-class genre study and who is unaware of its benefits. Think of a teacher you know and address your writing to that individual. The study will be at least fifteen double-spaced pages, not including the material in your appendices. If you need a scanner, let me know. The first draft of your project will be reviewed by a peer. I will comment on the second draft and meet with you to discuss it. You will submit the final draft electronically as well as in hard copy. You will also give a presentation to the class.

As you compose your study, draw from your own experiences with the memoir genre study that you participated in earlier in the semester, the readings that were assigned in class, relevant portions of the textbook you are reviewing, the sources you located through research, and the components of the genre study that are referenced in the peer review questions. The presentation will be practical, interactive, and lively. Supply handouts and keep your listeners engaged. You will have approximately forty minutes. Teaching Poetry Through Genre Study. Introduction into the Genre Study Process: A Ninth Grade Genre Study.

Exploring the Short Story. A Genre Study of the Short Story. Rationale for Genre Studies. A Genre Study on the Reflective Essay.

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