If I were still teaching, I’d begin Monday morning with a lament.
“Sunday evening is full with nostalgia and desire,” I’d say, and my students would cringe and giggle because I said, “desire.” But I’d keep going.
“Like the charcoal cooling on the grill; its smoke seeping into the neighborhood and the ice cream truck singing its bouncy tune to let us know Push Pops are here.”
Maybe I’d catch their attention when I mention ice cream. It’s hard to be sure when I’m writing about a hypothetical bunch of students but what I’d really want to get at is that Sunday night funk that I catch—every week—and maybe they feel that way sometimes, too. Maybe they know about wanting to hold onto the weekend and also knowing they can’t—like the ice cream cone you have to eat lest it dribbles down your fingers, down your arm, onto your knees, then toes—don’t waste it.
“Mrs. Feyen,” my students would say, “why are you bringing this up? It’s depressing!”
“Because over the weekend I played a soccer game with a giant bouncy ball,” I’d begin. “I played with my oldest daughter, my two nephews, and my brother and sister-in-law. We played in a narrow, long patch of grass just outside of my parents’ home in Raleigh, NC. My nephew, he’s four, and he kept calling out, ’52! 23! 78!’ before he’d kick the ball. ‘That’s football!’ my other nephew, his older brother, said.'”
I’d uncap a marker and write, “Things To Keep,” at the top of a piece of paper. “Soccer game on a Sunday afternoon,” I’d write.
“That’s something I’d want to keep,” I’d tell my class.
I would tell them about the walk my family and I took along a river. We saw wasps’ nests under bridges, tiny turtles sunning themselves on tree branches, and a duck that looked like a turkey and scared us all so we started running and laughing and screaming, “Look out for the turkey duck!”
I’d write, “Walk—turtles, wasps, turkey duck,” on the paper.
I’d tell my students about dying Easter eggs and what colorful noise it must have been to have your five grandchildren—ages 16 to 4—in your kitchen calling, “Grandma! Grandma! Grandma! Can I….” Grandma, look!”
“Easter eggs in my mom’s kitchen” would go up on the paper, too.
“What do you mean, keep?” a student would ask. “Like, keep the eggs? That’s gross!” and the class would laugh and I’d laugh, too because I know the student is trying to rile me up and knock me off course. Frankly, I’m trying to do the same thing—disrupt my students with imagination and creativity—show them how marvelous it is to shape something that tugs at your heart.
“How are you going to keep a soccer game?” another student would challenge.
This time, there would be no laughter, and I’d respond with a question: “How do you keep something that’s too big to hold? How do you keep something that you never held in the first place?” But you were there. You had an experience. Something happened to you. You were marked in some way.
“A memory,” someone might say, and I’ll make a new list:
WAYS OF KEEPING:
- a pressed flower from the soccer field
- a photo of the eggs
- a feather from the turkey duck
“How about a poem?” I’d suggest. “Can you keep anything in a poem?”
Gasps, groans, possibly gouging of the eyes.
“Mrs. Feyen baited us! We’ve been had!” they’d say.
Alas, notebooks would open, pencils would rise, a hush like a wave returned to the ocean at high tide would settle over the room.
“Weekend keeping,” they’d write at the top of a new page, and then they’d remember. And then they’re write.
I’d try, too. And we’d find ourselves naming what we’ve left behind in the hope that this Monday-lament-turned-ritual would make room for what’s to come.
Try It: Weekend Keeping
This week (or weekend!), write a keeping poem. What is it you can capture (and set free again) in a poem?
Photo by unsettler Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Callie Feyen.
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Sandra Heska King says
Mrs Feyen baited me!
I found a half dozen of them
blown and stained, nesting in tissue.
Abby had written her name on the side of one
and on the other side, “Love One Another,”
both lines in beautiful script.
I sent a photo to my daughter.
She laughed. “I can’t wait until my
brother discovers you saved Easter eggs!”
I don’t remember the day
but I have proof it happened.