In Freshmen Comp, we have a paper: the Crot essay. I will show you the gist of this assignment:
The purpose: what will this paper actually do for you? It’s my aim to show you that creativity and writing in college can go together. It’s my aim to show you that a worthwhile and interesting piece of writing does not need to have a concrete beginning, middle, and end. My aim is to show you that using vivid detail enhances your writing immeasurably. My aim is to show you that you can tell a story by indirectly telling it. My aim is for you to realize something important about yourself and your writing. My aim is for you to actually enjoy this.
The students are to choose snapshots of their life – crots – and make them a cohesive example of who they are. How did these moments make them into the person they are? How do they define them? And it’s more difficult than you can imagine because it IS so open and can go in so many different directions.
What is astounding me beyond belief is the sheer number of them who want to use injuries. And I ask them, “How does this broken arm make you who you are?” And they stare at me and sigh, knowing that they have to write another draft. But they do not think about the question.
This paper makes me want to write my own, because it prompts me to question myself. How does one decide what moments in life have defined them? I mean, I could analyze other people and figure this out. I am wont to do this with comic characters all the time. But me? I don’t know. I expect my 17 year old freshmen to have not the slightest clue as to “who they are”. But me? At 30? I should possibly have an inkling, at least. So I decided to jot some things down. It’s a start, just a shitty first draft.
My sister is wobbly on the pink bicycle in spite of the training wheels. The elbow and knee pads dwarf her tiny appendages but they are necessary: my father is persistent in teaching her to ride but the process is painful. He shouts, he gets angrier with each fall, with each slip up this poor four year old happy-go-lucky child makes. I am her cheerleader, there for encouragement in the absence of our mother who is at work, works part-time to supplement our tiny family’s income. She falls again and instead of a gentle nudge to get up, keep going, he turns into the monster we know him to be. His other side shows through and he is furious, bringing my sister to tears. This is the father of my childhood: a man lacking compassion or a kind word. I am fueled by his rage and I scream at him, tell him to lay off and let her go. In that instant he comes at me, fist in air, and I recoil, finding the easiest way to create: child=ball. The pain does not come; he falls back and calls me a jerk and goes back into the house. The word hurts me more then the punch would have.
It is mid-afternoon and the South Florida sun warms the children scrambling about the Orange Brook Elementary playground. I’m running races with Kendrick, the fastest boy. As far as I can tell, I am the fastest girl. We count down to launch and propel our wiry bodies towards a predetermined finish line, probably a stick in the weeds out beyond the kickball field. He finished slightly ahead, wins by an arm, and I am sad, hunched over slightly to catch my breath. But I recover quickly because I am only nine and my body regenerates and refuels with speed and skill. As I walk back towards the tennis courts, a boy in my class, James, approaches. He has a devious smile on his face, looking for trouble, I assume. In a fraction of a moment, he has gotten very close to me and snatched my fourteen-carat-gold cross necklace, bolting away. When the teacher caught him, he was forced to help me scour the dry scratchy shrubs of the field but we never did find it, the gift from my grandparents on the occasion of my First Communion.
It was December, 1994 and I had finished my one and only semester at South Broward High School in Dania, Florida. Because we were moving, my parents let me attend school with all my friends, instead of going to Chaminade-Madonna, the Catholic High school I had been accepted to. Over the Christmas break, we – my mother and father, sister and beagle – moved the four hours to Altamonte Springs, where we lived in my father’s one bedroom apartment for roughly one month while the house buying procedures were churned through, settled, unsettled, then finalized.
The very first day that they took us to see our new home, I was wearing my favorite clothes at the time: a pair of jeans with flannel patches on the knees, my Guns and Roses t-shirt, and my black Nikes with the purple swoosh. On my Walkman, I listened to Pearl Jam, Black. We pulled up to the house, at the end of a cul-de-sac (”People get killed in cul-de-sacs,” someone at school told me) and I was feeling so out of place. The neighbourhoods down south were all straight grid streets, named after presidents and intersected by numbers. In central Florida, everything is winding and covered in trees and named after trees; our street name was Lonesome Pine.
We wandered through this big empty house, full of light and windows, Mexican tile and archways. It was the polar opposite of our little house – the only one I had ever known. I remember feeling, as the vast emptiness of what would be my new home filled me, that the song embodied my emotions. I was an angsty almost 15 year old, full of rage, hormones and fear. As we drove away, I looked on the streets for kids my age; possible friendships. I was scared and alone. I don’t think my friendships were ever the same after I moved away from my childhood home of 14 years.
What are some memories that stick with you, made you who you are?