Category Archives: Memories

Grandson and Grandma Play Minecraft

In the last few weeks, we’ve spent quite a bit of time with our 11-year-old grandson. Those hours spent with him are precious times!  On the days that we have him all day long, we have a fun routine. We start the day at the breakfast table making a list of all the things we want to do during the day, including what we’ll have for lunch and dinner, errands and tasks. Time outdoors is included as well as the indoor games and activities. We revisit the list at the end of the day and mark off the things we’ve actually done. It’s a fun way to realize that there are endless things we can do and never get bored while spending the day (or days) with grandparents!

One thing that is always on the list is some time for one of his favorite computer games, Minecraft. Last year, he showed me how to start a game myself, and I was hooked! He showed great patience in helping me learn how to build things and navigate the environment. He showed me that I could choose a “peaceful” game without monsters attacking me and blowing up my buildings, and that I also had a choice of “survival” or “creative” modes. In survival mode, I have to find all my own supplies and materials. In creative mode, they are already there for me. I find this game fun and relaxing and play it quite often, building houses, villages, and cities, and exploring many different biomes.

But now there is a computer version in the house that can be hooked to the TV and is controlled by a joystick. Although I do well on the touchscreen version of the game on my iPad, this old grandma has a great deal of trouble with using a joystick to navigate the computer version! Grandson has once again shown great patience in trying to help me learn how to use it because he would dearly love to play a two-person version of the game. If I could just manage to work that joystick really well, we could build things together in one game! But the manual dexterity skills that seem to come so naturally to young people these days are very difficult for me to manage, so I mostly end up watching him create his Minecraft worlds. I’m practicing my joystick skills, but it’s slow learning for me.

This sweet Grandboy hasn’t given up on me. He enjoys visiting my current game on my iPad, and likes to add his own touches to what I have been building. And he continues to educate me about the endless possibilities of this amazing game. He’s a wonderful teacher! This week, he loaned me three books to read on the subject (knowing I love to learn by reading). I know I am loved when he loans me his hardback Minecraft books!

Donny’s Desk

During my teaching years, I kept a folder for special cards and notes that were given to me. I also wrote down some of the stories that I felt needed to be saved and tucked them into that folder, too. Since reading the little book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, I’ve started going through drawers, files, boxes. This afternoon, for the first time in years, I looked through my special teaching folder. I found this little story, a real treasure, that I wrote from my first year of teaching 6th grade. As I read it, I can still see these two boys in my memory. I am reminded once again that the truth of teaching is not about testing, and only somewhat about curriculum. It’s about LIFE.

I loved my days and years spent with young people! I learned so much from them about love and friendship, strength and resilience, courage and growth…and about how to appreciate each day for the many gifts of love one receives from others, young or old.

DONNY’S DESK

Donny and Nick were inseparable. They’d been friends since kindergarten, and they moved alike, talked alike, and thought alike. Like two young playful puppies, they were constantly jostling and wrestling each other. They couldn’t stand in a line together without a little shoving or shoulder bumping or tousling of the other’s hair.

Once, when Nick went on a family trip for a week, Donny walked around the classroom with a totally lost look on his face. “What are you going to do without your best buddy this week?” I asked him. “I dunno,” he replied with a shrug and a look on his face that showed the loneliness inside.

Yesterday, Donny didn’t come to school. Today I got a message over the intercom from the office saying simply, “Donny moved this weekend. He’ll be in to pick up his things today.”  I looked at Nick in surprise and asked him if he knew anything about this. He didn’t.

Donny came in and cleared out his desk just before lunch. His mother told us quietly where he was moving. “We’ve moved in with friends,” she said with tears in her eyes. Donny said his quiet goodbyes to Nick, and the class. Then he was gone.

The class worked somberly, silently, asking no questions. A little while later Nick quietly came up to my desk and said, “Mrs. Rice, can I move into Donny’s desk?”

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning

When my grandmother died, we found that she had prepared well for the distribution of her belongings. On the bottom or on the back of her most important items, we found a small strip of masking tape with a family member’s name on it. We’ve remembered that over the years with humor and affection, and appreciation. Many years after her death, I turned over one of two kitchen chairs she had given me, and felt a rush of warmth and remembering when I saw the slightly curled piece of masking tape with my name on it.

Much like the planning ahead my grandmother did at the end of her life, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson, is a book chock full of ideas on getting rid of the clutter in our lives. It is a book that would be helpful to read at any age! Her ideas are very practical and encouraging, and she addresses many of the roadblocks we run into when we are trying find the courage to let things go that we have spent a lifetime collecting.

“Sometimes you just have to give cherished things away with the hope that they end up with someone who will create new memories of their own.”

I will be putting many of her suggestions into gear immediately because I’m already in the purging mode this January. When I spend more time indoors, out of the cold weather, I realize how much stuff we have that we really don’t need anymore. And we are getting on in years, as well, and I definitely don’t want my children to have to deal with all our stuff.  It’s really an act of kindness and love to go through the process of letting go of the clutter now instead of leaving it for them to deal with after we are gone.

My Mom, who is 98 years old, is also reading this book and we are talking about the ideas and the process from both our perspectives. It’s a wonderful ongoing conversation right now, and an important one.

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The First Poem I Remember

Since April is National Poetry Month, I’d like to share another favorite poem of mine. It’s actually the first poem I remember and a very early memory for me. When I was little, my mother used to braid my hair. To help me sit quietly she would recite poetry to me. This memory of my mother’s tender loving care combined with this tenderhearted poem has always been a precious memory for me. The poem is called Little Boy Blue and the author was Eugene Field, who also wrote the beloved poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, which I also remember from my hair braiding sessions.  No wonder I have loved poetry all my life!

 

April Poetry

I love the month of April, not just because Spring finally arrives after all the rainy grayness of our area, but also because it’s National Poetry Month. Poetry is a big part of my life. My grandmother was a poet, and there was always poetry in my family as I was growing up. I loved teaching poetry to elementary students for 27 years (there was so much young talent!!), and I love to write poetry, although I don’t do it often. I am in awe of the poets, the wordsmiths. They seem to have a direct line to the collective wisdom of the centuries. They definitely have a direct line to my heart.

Throughout April I always try to keep ‘a poem in my pocket’ and read as much poetry as I can.   This month, I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you.

So here’s an all time favorite of mine…one I discovered when my son was a newborn 45 years ago. It touched me very deeply way back then, so I always include this poem with the knitted baby blankets and sweaters I give as gifts to friends and family when a new baby is born.

Morning Song

~ by Sylvia Plath, from Ariel

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped our footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

A photo with my newborn daughter. I love that big brother is in the background of this one, barely visible but there.

Old Favorites

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Dusting my bookshelves today, I decided to share a photo of some of the oldest books on my shelf. These are books that have survived numerous purges and were dutifully boxed and moved with us from house to house. I’ve always thought I would reread them, but haven’t done so yet, except for My Antonia. Still, something to look forward to.

What are some of the oldest books on your shelf?

From my Archives: Sparking a Passion for Reading

To celebrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s 210th birthday today, I want to share with you a post I wrote and originally published on this blog on February 27, 2008.

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

born February 27, 1807

Teaching young people how to read is one thing, but sparking a passion for reading is another. As a teacher, I’m highly trained in how to teach children to read, but after 22 years of teaching, I think it’s my own passion for reading that is the most powerful tool I have as I try to ignite that spark in my students. I’ve wondered exactly where my passion came from, and I’ve been able to identify a couple of things that certainly fueled the flames. One was being lovingly read to by my parents. The other was a book experience I had when I was seven or eight years old.

My father, a university professor, asked me to go with him to visit an older, retired professor in town. Dad prepared me on the drive over to this man’s house, letting me know that he was an unusual person, old and always very grumpy with people, sort of a “hermit,” he said. What he didn’t tell me was that the man was a book person extraordinaire.

I don’t think I could ever adequately describe what this man’s house was like. I walked in the front door, my father introduced us, then I looked around. I had never seen so many books in all my life. Bookshelves were everywhere and overflowing with books. Books were piled up everywhere…and I mean everywhere! The living room was completely full of books, so there was no place to sit down. The kitchen was piled high with books — the stovetop and a small space next to the sink were the only places without piles of books. The chairs and table were piled high. There were stacks of books in the bathroom, towers of books in the bedroom. Books were piled high along the hallway. Then, he took us downstairs into his basement, which was also filled with books, except that those books were on rows and rows of bookshelves, just like in a library.

Old Professor Poulson must have recognized me as a fellow book person, even though I was only eight and he was over eighty, because he very proudly showed me his entire collection, was gentle and kind to me, and before I left he gave me a book. That book has always been my most treasured book. It was a very old, lovely volume of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poems, called Voices of the Night. I still read it and treasure it.

I remember spending hours and hours reading those poems and looking at the beautiful art “plates.” I memorized his poem, “The Wreck of the Hersperus,” which fascinated me, and I can still recite it today. And when my father passed away, it was a stanza from Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” that I chose to use during my remarks at his memorial service:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”

Looking back, I think my Dad knew exactly what he was doing by showing me this striking example of a person’s passion for reading. It had a tremendous impact on me at a very young age! So, in searching through memories to answer the question of where my passion for reading came from, I realize that, first, my dad and mom taught me to read … and then, in so many different ways, they taught me to love reading, passionately.

First Audiobook

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The very first audiobook I ever listened to was The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. That was about 35 years ago but I still remember the experience well. The book was on cassette tapes borrowed from the library and it was really a lot of fun to listen to and it sparked a longtime love of listening to books. I borrowed a lot of books on tape from the library, and then a few years later, I became a member of Recorded Books — an excellent company for producing books on tape — and ordered my audiobooks by mail. I listened to a lot of books that way. Now it is so easy to have an Audible membership and simply download a book to my phone. I do love to listen to all kinds of books!

What was the first audiobook you listened to?

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Anais Nin

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When I was younger I read all of Anais Nin‘s diaries and many of her other works. They were fascinating! I took many notes, copying out different quotes from her insightful and eloquent ruminations. There was so many things she said that put into words for me my own experiences or inner thoughts. She was born on this day in 1903. I celebrate her today and the influence she had on me as a young woman.

“There are books which we read early in life, which sink into our consciousness and seem to disappear without leaving a trace. And then one day we find, in some summing-up of our life and put attitudes towards experience, that their influence has been enormous.”
― Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays

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