The boy (I’m going to call him Marcus) wore glasses and cowboy boots, and we were climbing a wooden jungle gym at recess in the hopes we could see the Sears Tower once we got to the top. The bee was on my jacket, though I wasn’t aware of its presence. Only of Marcus.
Marcus and I didn’t say much to each other. Our communication seemed to happen via eye contact and movement, like the time we were making collages with different herbs and spices – thyme, cloves, and hot pepper flakes.
“Don’t eat them, don’t eat them!” my preschool teacher warned us as she sprinkled the red flakes on our card stock.
I watched her walk past me. I looked at Marcus. I looked at the flakes. I looked at Marcus. I licked my finger, stuck it on the card stock, swiped about five flakes, and put them in my mouth. Marcus followed suit.
Heat worse than standing bare-footed on a tar road in August scorched within me, and I started to cry. Marcus threw himself off his chair and rolled around on the ground, and I think he too was trying to put out the fire that raged within him.
That day, as we sat in Time Out together sipping cold water from paper cups fit for fairies, Marcus, who had bits of red pepper flakes in his hair turned to me and smiled.
Feeling bold, I asked him, “At recess, do you want to try to see the serious tower?”
“I think it’s called ‘Sears,'” is what he said.
It was the beginning of a solid relationship.
Before the sting, I remember making that last push to the top of the structure, standing up and looking around. The day was blue, and I could see my breath and feel it rush in like cool puffs of smoke when I inhaled. I watched cars soar towards the city, and I looked across the street at the baseball diamond and the sledding hill where the big kids played. It would be years until I’d sled down that hill, ice flying in my face and creeping under my jacket, prickling my stomach, and me screaming and laughing and thinking this was the wildest ride to be on at sixteen.
I didn’t know any of this at four, standing as high as I’ve ever been on a day that smelled of burning leaves and apples. Marcus and I couldn’t see the Sears Tower, but this was a great view, and I decided it was warm enough to unzip my jacket, so I did, but it got stuck. I gave it a yank and felt a zap to my right index finger.
I don’t remember yelling, but I remember opening my mouth to yell. I know I cried, but I don’t know if it was because I was in pain or because I had to leave the top of the world.
My teacher carried me into the office, put salve and a band-aid on my swollen finger.
“I’m afraid of bees,” I told her as I dangled my feet from the chair I was sitting on.
“They’ll be gone soon,” she told me tossing the band-aid wrapper in the trash and then giving me a hug.
“Brave girl, climbing to the top,” she told me.
I may’ve had a crush on Marcus, but I loved my preschool teacher.
It was autumn turning toward winter. I would be five soon. There would be more crushes and more stings, but I’m glad the first of them happened on the day I went hunting for the tallest building in the world with a friend who wanted to come with me.
In Tania Runyan’s How To Write Poem, she asks, “What if you were to invite the reader into summer rather than just tell them about it? How would you create that solid memory?” She goes on to show examples: Instead of “hot,” she writes specifics to make us feel the context of “hot”: “rainbow popsicle juice drips down my wrists.”
I applied this concept to fall. Instead of describing the season, I tried to to invite the reader into my memory of a fall day when I was in preschool. This week’s prompt is just that: Don’t describe, invite. This week, don’t describe fall — invite us into fall with your poetry.
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. You do not need to be a teacher to have instant admiration for her honesty, vulnerability, and true dedication to her students. She uses her own personal storytelling as the tool to teach one of the greatest stories of our time creating an instant connection to her students as well as to you the reader. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie. – Celena Roldan
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