Fast Times at Central Junior High

In the seventh or eighth grade, my English class was visited by poet Peggy Simpson Curry. I don’t remember what form of poetry Mrs. Curry taught us, but I do recall writing a poem and sharing it with the class, much to the amusement of other students, Mrs. Curry, and the principal.

I thought nothing more about this until last year when I heard that Mrs. Curry had passed away. I then thought of the poem I wrote over thirty years ago when she visited our class. Back then, I didn’t save anything I wrote, but I could remember key elements of the poem so I recreated it. This is what I call a Christmas tree poem because I don’t remember the name of the poetry form. It has nine lines, each line containing more syllables than the last. When centered on the page, it looks like a Christmas tree. This poem appears in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Junior High

School

bells ring.

Students yell.

Locker doors slam.

Buses thrum nearby,

bring children from afar

to classrooms, waiting teachers

in a school atmosphere controlled

by a fat and sassy principal.

At the time, the principal was Dr. Virginia Wright who has long since passed away. When she introduced herself to me, she said, “I’m sixty-two years old. I have gray hair, and I’m fat and sassy.” Because she said that to me, I thought it would be okay to write that in the poem, and it was. She somehow got wind of it because she called me into her office, but contrary to what my classmates believed would happen, I wasn’t punished. She asked me what I learned from Mrs. Curry, and I told her. When I read her the poem, she, like everyone else who heard it, thought it was funny.

She was a big help during the two years I was in junior high. She made sure I had Braille textbooks and other materials I needed, and was available whenever I needed to talk to someone. She even gave me a ride home from school one day when I missed the bus. She was like an extra grandmother.

Do you remember a teacher or principal who helped or inspired you during what they call those impressionable years? Tell me about it.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Ode to Dr. Pepper

After reading a post on Writing Life Stories, I was reminded of a poem I wrote several years ago about my favorite soft drink. Don’t ask me how a poem about making real butter reminded me of a poem about Dr. Pepper. My mind works in mysterious ways. This poem is from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I posted it on this blog last year as part of the post Moxie Versus Dr. Pepper. It won’t hurt to post it again.

Ode to Dr. Pepper

I like to swallow its cold carbonation,

feel it come back into my mouth in the form of a belch.

Oh, that feels so good!

I drink it in mid afternoon.

It helps me get through the day.

I sometimes consume it in the evening

when I’m sleepy, and it’s too early for bed.

In the good old days,

I drank a lot of it,

just what the doctor ordered.

Now, the doctor says it has too much sugar

so I limit my consumption to one or two cans a day.

What would I do without it?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Memories

One of the activities I did at the nursing home was called music and memories. We would sing songs about a specific topic such as romance , and I would encourage residents to talk about their first date, first kiss etc. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver briefly profiles my life and emphasizes the fact that if I ever end up in a nursing home, I’ll look back on my life. I’m also including a link to a recording of me singing “Memory” from the Broadway musical Cats. In the song, n old cat reflects on her younger years, and that is one of the things I tried to encourage nursing home residents to do.

I Remember

In my childhood,

I helped Mother in the house,

went to school, was praised by teachers,

threatened with an eighteen-inch ruler,

played with siblings and friends,

was harassed by schoolyard bullies.

As a teen-ager, I went to high school,

to the prom, graduated.

In my adult years, I went to college,

got a job, was married.

When I grow old,

can’t see, hear, or walk,

depend on others,

I’ll remember my life.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/memory_.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Lunch

What will you have for lunch today? Since I had a big breakfast, I’ll probably have just a tossed salad and a cheesy breadstick from Schwann. In the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, I emphasize the fact that you need money in order to eat.

Inside A Sandwich

Lunchmeat, cheese, lettuce, onions,

tomatoes, mayonnaise abound.

When that’s all gone, there’s only bread.

In the absence of dough, there’s nothing but hunger.

What do you remember about lunch when you were growing up? When you went to school, did your mother pack a lunch for you, or did you eat a hot meal in the cafeteria? Did you ever trade food you didn’t like with friends for food you liked? Please feel free to share your memories by leaving a comment.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Gardening

In 1973 when my family moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, we rented a house that had a walled garden. I found this fascinating since we never had a garden before, to my knowledge. From our back yard, you went through a gate and down a set of wooden steps to a platform. To your left was a huge expanse of dirt, and the walls surrounded you. At the opposite end, there was another set of wooden steps that went up to a gate that opened onto an alley. During the two years we lived there, our table was graced every fall with fresh vegetables from our garden. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver describes how our first attempt at gardening was rudely interrupted.

In the Garden

There are no trees, just an expanse of dirt.

While Mother and Dad work, I sit on the steps,

study seed packets of peas, corn, tomatoes,

read the labels, gaze at the pictures.

I’m only twelve.

In the distance, sirens wail.

“It sounds like fire engines,” says Dad.

In the house, the phone rings.

I hurry to answer it.

A male voice asks for my mother.

I rush outside, call her to the phone,

“Oh my god! We’ll be right there.”

“Ed, we need to pick up Andy at the police station.

He was playing with matches near that shack

at the bottom of the hill when it caught fire.”

The garden is abandoned.

What are your memories of gardening when you were growing up? Did you help your father or mother plant a garden? Did you grow flowers, vegetables, or both? Please feel free to share your memories by leaving a comment below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

A Million Kisses

While Bill was recovering from his strokes, he suffered from occasional bouts of depression. One day soon after his first stroke, he burst into tears and said, “I owe you a million kisses.” This sentence starts the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. This is one of several poems I wrote from Bill’s point of view. I think we all owe that special someone in our lives a million kisses.

Stroke

I owe you a million kisses.

I owe you a million hugs–

and now that you are my Mrs.,

I should keep you safe from thugs.

But I have been dealt a hard blow

which leaves me unable to do

the things I delighted in so,

and that includes loving you.

If I could hold you once more,

I’d cherish the love you provide.

If fate would open the door

and allow me to walk inside,

I’d give you a million kisses

now that you are my Mrs.

By the way, you might want to read a couple of articles about me and Bill and my new book. The first was published in The Casper Star Tribune this past Sunday. The second is a book review that appears on the U.S. Review of Books Website. Enjoy!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver