Fearless Fun, by Aimee Motta

“Let the sledding begin!” Jackie announced.  The hill awaited us and our sleds were ready.  A group of six adventurers headed into the snowy night.  As we ascended the hill, we quickly warmed up our core temperature.

On the summit, we selected our sled and chose our riders.  There was no fear only the anticipation of fun and laughter.  The descent did not disappoint us.  Immediate belly laughs, brought on my crazy steering, echoed in the night.  Another ascent to invite more laughter and hopefully learn to steer more adeptly.

A duo made the decision to go for the gold and pass the distance mark of the previous run.  With a heave and a ho, the two began the golden run.  An unsuspecting bump, shadowed by the darkness, sent the duo off the stead and rolling onto the snow, derailing their hopes for glory.  Yet, the laughter that ensued made the failed venture worth every second.

As my friend and I watched from atop the hill, I offered to push her for the solo golden run, skeleton style.  My muscles were pumped and ready to give her the top speed needed.  With the final kick, to my friend’s surprise, I jumped on her back and we began the descent together – more weight, more distance, more fun.

The night was growing old and our last run had approached.  A sled of three began their descent.  Faster and faster, farther and farther down the hill.  No veers to the left or to the right.  Straight on, full steam ahead.  No doubt, an olympic run that brought hoots and hollers from the trio.  Once again, the hill satisfied the need for a winter thrill, the connection to childhood and the affirmation of living.

Becoming the Tooth Fairy, by Lisa Thompson

When Lisa was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

*BECOMING THE TOOTH FAIRY

*HOW MUCH WILL SHE LEAVE?

*WILL IT EVER COME OUT?

*DENTIST VISIT

*WAITING

*SNEEZE!

*ALL IS WELL

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

BECOMING THE TOOTH FAIRY

As a parent, I am always worried about something. Are they eating enough? Getting enough sleep? Did I handle that situation in the right way? And as a mom, I wear many hats on the journey we call parenthood. I am Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and most recently the Tooth Fairy. With this new responsibility came the usual onslaught of questions. How much is a fair amount to leave for a first tooth? Should we put the tooth in something so that it doesn’t get lost under the pillow? What if he wakes up and catches me? What will I say?

HOW MUCH WILL SHE LEAVE?

My husband and I discussed the possibilities while our son played with his slightly loose tooth, slowly moving it back and forth with his tongue. Back and forth, back and forth went the tooth and back and forth, back and forth went my husband and I. “Five dollars is fair. It’s his very FIRST tooth!” my husband explained. “What? I was always pleased with a quarter! INFLATION!!!” I said. “I think a nice hand written letter, a dollar and small trinket would be really sweet”, I continued.

WILL IT EVER COME OUT?

As it was, all of this worry was a bit premature. Wyatt’s tooth hung on for a good month, too stubborn to budge and he did not do anything to encourage it. Mealtimes were tumultuous as we struggled to find foods that could be eaten without biting (apples and corn on the cob were out of the question). Eventually, my concern got the better of me and I called to scheduled a visit with the dentist. As luck would have it, both boys had a routine cleaning already scheduled, which I had forgotten about because I made the appointment six months prior.

DENTIST VISIT

It was a quiet car ride as Wyatt looked out the window, his mouth closed in a tight line. Finally he spoke and I could see in the rearview mirror that his eyes were welling up as he said, “Will the dentist pull out my tooth Mommy?” I wanted to ease his worried mind, but I also wanted to be honest. “I’m not sure buddy, but if she decides that it’s best to extract it, she’ll give you some medicine so that it won’t hurt.” The remainder of the ride was silent. As soon as we arrived at the office, I opened his car door and immediately gave him a hug. We walked in hand in hand and again, waited in silence. The exam went well, however, the Dr. recommended that the tooth come out as the adult tooth was aggressively pushing through. She gave us a deadline, if the tooth did not fall out within 24 hours, we were to come back and get it pulled.

WAITING

The mood was certainly somber as Wyatt busied himself with other things throughout the remainder of the day. He moped around the house as if he had a meeting with the executioner (not one of my job titles), and I moped at the thought of having to pull his tooth out myself. To brighten our moods, we decided to read “Andrew’s Loose Tooth” by Robert Munsch, one of our favorite authors. Immediately, Wyatt was relating to Andrew and before long we were both giggling at the absurdity of the methods used to try to remove Andrew’s tooth. I marveled at Wyatt’s smile, as the tooth seemed to dance to his laughter. We chuckled about the motorcycle riding tooth fairy and contemplated whether I should use my motorcycle to get his tooth to leave. Now we were both engulfed in full belly chortles. The kind that leave you catching your breath, eyes watering and eventually emitting squeaks and snorts. Just then, an astonishing thing happened…

SNEEZE!

AAACHOOOO! A hearty sneeze from such a little person, Wyatt’s eyes like saucers darting around the room. “What’s wrong?” I hastily inquired. “M-M-M-My tooth!” he stammered. “It’s gone!” I immediately began nervously laughing (Partly from shock at the incredible coincidence that Andrew also looses his tooth by sneezing it out, and partly because I had been preparing myself for having to pull it out myself!) as we formed a search party and combed the carpet for the now lost, lost tooth! After a brief sweep, the now seeming tiny tooth was found. We both slouched back onto the couch in relief and finished our story as Wyatt examined the blood stained recesses of his white treasure, a slight smirk growing on his face. What are the chances? I thought. Maybe it was allergies, divine intervention, the beginning of a cold or the power of suggestion. What ever the reason, I could not have been any more grateful!

ALL IS WELL

Bedtime was exciting as Wyatt prepared for his special visitor. He put his tooth in a special pocket and carefully put it beneath his pillow. I’m not sure how long it took him to fall asleep; it was very late when I snuck into his room later that night. The stealth transaction went smoothly as I, the “tooth fairy” made the trade. A first lost tooth for a letter, dollar and trinket (I won…five dollars was just too much!). I stood outside his bedroom, the tiny tooth in my palm. I thought, “I worry too much.” Somehow, things always have a way of working themselves out.

The Tractor that Wouldn’t Stop, by Kathie Pingree

Living on a farm in Ferrisburg, Vermont was a life that many city kids envied. I was at the age when my father gave me more responsibility. He let me drive a tractor and rake the fields, but he would always start the tractor for me and put it in gear, and all I had to do was drive and put on the break. I was ready for more.

Later on that summer my day had come to actually drive the tractor home from the upper field to the barn area and park it. My father started the tractor for me. “Dad, can I drive the tractor home today?”

“Are you sure you’re ready to try this?”

“I’m sure, it should be easy. Just show me how to do it.” He showed me the mechanics of driving, and turning it off. The part that didn’t sink in my memory was the fact that it was a standard with a clutch and a break!!

I was so proud of the fact that I was actually driving the tractor home all by myself. The wind was blowing through my hair, and I felt a strong sense of independence!! I said to myself, “Wow, this feels great and so grown-up! I’m actually driving this tractor by myself!”

As I approached the driveway, I saw my mom hanging clothes on the line. I waved at her so I could get her attention. She waved back and said, “Be careful and slow down!”

Suddenly, satisfaction turned to fear. I applied the break, but the tractor kept going and going and going! I screamed in my mind, “Oh my God, the tractor won’t stop! What am I going to do to STOP this tractor?” My heart was racing in such a panic.

My eyes turned to my mother as she was screaming, “Kathie, please stop the tractor!!” What was I going to do so this wouldn’t end terribly?”

Time was running out as my tractor was aiming right for the cement drop-off. All of a sudden, I got a picture in my head to turn the starter switch to the “off” position. The tractor immediately turned off and teetered on the side of the cement wall ready to plunge to the bottom. My mom raced over to me still screaming and asking if I was okay. I said that I was fine, but the tractor was in bad shape. She hugged me and said, “The tractor could be replaced, but you can’t.”

I learned a great lesson through this experience and that’s to listen thoroughly to my father’s instructions,and not to be anxious to be independent when I’m not secure with the steps on how to drive the tractor by myself.

The Quiet Game, by Galen Perkins

It’s early on a summer morning, but my sister Morgan and I are already up and wide awake. We are just starting to whisper and giggle when my grandmother comes quietly into the room.

“Good morning, girls,” whispers Grammie. “Should we play the Quiet Game?”

We nod enthusiastically as we exchange a glance. The competition is immediately on! We’ve done this many times before, so we know the rules, but still Grammie says, “Go get dressed, and remember – no talking, no noise!”

We tiptoe over to our suitcases. If we are lucky, we left our bags unzipped the night before. Zippers make noise! Unfortunately my suitcase is partially zipped. Slowly, slowly, I pull the tab, watching as the teeth of the zipper slide apart. Finally I can open the bag enough to grab my clothes. A quick glance at Morgan shows that she is already mostly dressed, and I hurry to catch up.

This is summer time in Maine. My grandparent’s cabin in the woods is always filled with warmth and laughter and magic. We come every year, and even though the drive is long it is always worth it. Though we are old enough now to know that this “game” is really just a way to keep us from waking up our parents, we throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the silent competition. First one to talk loses!

Both dressed now, we tiptoe back to the door. The door is a challenge. Made of old, graying wood, there is a window that rattles and a deadbolt that scrapes and groans as it slides open. Turning it a tiny bit at a time we manage to get the door unlocked with minimal noise. Whew! But we aren’t out yet – we still have to get the door open, and it always sticks. After some careful jiggling we are able to pull the door open with only a gentle rattling of the window. Now onto the screen door, but this one is a little easier. If you open it just wide enough to squeeze through, then the old springs don’t squeak too much. However, you have to remember not to let it slam behind you! Soon we have both slipped through the door and we are running down the path to the old Volkswagon camper.

We quietly slip into the camper. Grammie is right behind us with breakfast and we all settle in around the fold down table. As we are eating our breakfast, I start to feel it – the urge to TALK! I concentrate on holding back the words, but it’s getting harder. I want to point out the chipmunk outside or tell them that I just hear the loons calling on the pond! I look at Morgan and notice that she seems perfectly content to say nothing. I wonder if she wants to go swimming… or pick blueberries…maybe we’ll go for a ride in the rowboat, or go to the sand beach, or…

“Do you want to have a picnic at Schoodic?”

Oh. I just lost the Quiet Game.

Mami’s Little Mermaid, by Erin Rounds

When Erin was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Packing up the car
  • Arriving at the lake
  • The dock
  • Victory

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

Packing up the Car

It was going to be a glorious day at the lake. The sun was shining and cotton clouds dabbed the sky as we finished loading the car. Upon helping to pack the sand toys into the trunk, Erli spotted her Ariel the Little Mermaid swimming vest. “Mami, I’m bringing my swimming vest?! I’m going to swim in the deep water!”

I smiled. This has been a summer of independence and dare-devil stunts. Erli is an aerial artist on her rope swing, flips herself upside down on rings, climbs trees, and scales rock-climbing walls. Her declaration did not surprise me. “You know,” I mentioned nonchalantly, Silver Lake has a diving dock so you can jump into the deep water.”

“Really?! Oh, I’m going to jump off the dock, because I’m a big girl.”

It was true, at four and a half years old, my daughter has grown fiercely independent, mature, and a bit head-strong and defiant. The dock was all she talked about on our drive to pick up Auntie Heather. It was all she must have thought about as soon as we arrived in the parking lot.

Arriving At the Lake

            We unpacked, and Erli was more helpful than even usual, offering to carry more than possible for her tall athletic frame, so that the adults wouldn’t have to make two trips to the car. “You’re in quite a hurry,” my sister commented.

“Come ON,” Erli whined. “I want to jump in the deep end.”

As soon as the last towel was laid out, Erli grabbed my hand and pulled in the direction of the dock. “Grab my camera,” I called out over my shoulder. Erli had already buckled her vest, and a determined spark lit up her dark brown eyes.

The Dock

            My fearless diva stood at the edge with me, watching the big kids dive and plunge beneath the dark waters.

She was smiling, but her eyes looked a little uncertain. “Mami will you catch me?” she asked in her most precious princess voice, sincerity tugging at my heart.

I had hoped for a big independent leap I’d be able to capture forever with a quick click, a small vested body in mid air, then applaud furiously from the dock, dry. But amid all her summer boasts for Mami to “Come look!” “Mami, watch THIS” I was still needed, as a mommy not an audience. “Mami, will you catch me?” My daughter was willing to leap out into the unknown like the big kids, as long as I was there to catch her. I can barely carry Erli anymore; she’s so tall and heavy. I felt like I’d blinked and all of a sudden my tiny Snuggle Butt was an adventurous girl standing on the dock beside me.

Half blind from taking my glasses off (I haven’t worn contacts in about two years), I ran and dove in, a nostalgic surge of summers past coursing through my veins. I held out my arms and tried to coax her in. Erli was nervous, her bravado fading as she inched closer and closer to the edge. Despite my outstretched arms, she hesitated. Finally, she sat and scooted her butt so that she sat on the edge above me, her feet dangling. We counted one last time, “1,2,3!” and Erli fell into my arms and bobbed under the water. She popped back up, surprised and scared, until she realized her vest allowed her to float.

Victory

            Soon my little mermaid was kicking and splashing alongside me, proud and beaming, and I had all the photos of the sequence, thanks to Auntie Heather’s quick shooting. There’s a great one of Erli standing on the dock after she’s come up the ladder: one hand confidently grasping the rail, a dancer’s toe pointed out, her hip thrown to one side, gazing out at the lake with this pose of triumph. I don’t know if next time she’ll look out and jump with abandon, all on her own. I do know that she still needed me that day, and I’ll always be here to catch her.

Running for Two, by Alysia Backman

When Alysia was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Spectator not participant
  • Track training
  • Dressing for the day
  • Wrapped in clouds
  • Pump it up
  • Closing in
  • Snapshot

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

SPECTATOR NOT PARTICIPANT

The humidity helped my already tight shirt cling to my body. In my elastic pant world, I sat knees up hugging my belly as I watched the colors of neon threaded through packs of runners with numbers pinned strategically on their chests and legs. My heart sank. “Hey Alysia!” a teacher from my school shouted. She was running her first half marathon. I cheered for her, as well as friends and strangers who were creating stories in the streets littered with cups and energy packets, but the claps and “Looking good looking strong” words of encouragement felt empty. May marked the beginning of the next leg of my race. I mimicked the runners with my hydration and fuel intake of fig newtons and bananas. In a crowd of thousands, with a baby growing inside of me, loneliness hovered. My identify as a runner was on hold as a created a new one — mother.

TRACK TRAINING

Steam rose from the track as the hint of wind from the lake passed over. The earthy red gravel from the track collected on my shoes and the wheels of son’s stroller. As my husband started the timer, I caught one last glimpse of my son’s closed eyes resting while I started my second round of sprints. “Pick it up, turn it over. You got it!” came from my husband as I rounded the last turn. I pushed into the corner fighting the urge to stop and yell, “Shh.. he’s asleep finally.” Starting the cooldown walk between sprints I laughed in the middle of a memory. “What is so funny?” shouted my husband. I shook off his question as it felt awkward to explain the last time I ran on a track was in 7th grade when I vomited in front of my entire class and I vowed never to run again while I was surrounded by real runners in the middle of a workout.

DRESSING FOR THE DAY

The smell of cider donuts signals the start of dressing in wool sweaters, down vests, and cozy hats. In running, you still need less clothes on race day even if the spectators are wrapped in ski parkas and hooded sweatshirts. My black capris had a stripe of purple like icing edged around a cake. The splash of blue in my tanktop lead right into my arm warmers hinting at a moment of color amongst the gray. “You are wearing that?” my husband dared to ask moments before I left the car for the start. A two dollar purchase at last year’s ski/snowboard swap, he loathed the blue cross country ski hat I had made a staple during winter running. “Yup, see you on the course.” The words were lost as I jumped out of the car and wove my way to the start.

WRAPPED IN CLOUDS

My running season that year had focused on a hot summer of trail running mixed in with two different team relay events each having a range of weather. Runners in Vermont know that the weather is a crap shoot each time you get other there and this day was no different. As the race went off, the clouds floated off Lake Champlain guided by wet wind, but we wouldn’t know their wrath until the course met with lake later. In the first two miles, my hat and gloves felt heavy. As I approached an aid station lined with my own students, I trusted they would guard my discarded clothes, but in honesty I knew they were headed for donation. Moments after worrying hypothermia would set in later, the clouds hugged me like my down comforter on a howling night in February. The wet kissed my face and instantly I thought I should be cold. In the moments that followed, I stayed warm and picked up speed. It was as if the clouds were pushing me to go faster.

PUMP IT UP

The course rolled over hills with farms to one side and white caps to the other. At one point, I transported myself to Cape Cod because where else could the dark of water tinged with white frothy foam like a latte be. Through the course, I heard “Go Mommy!” It may have been my family or someone else’s, but if the shoe fits. In the pockets of runners cloaked in wicking shirts and leaking crusted sweat, I pushed. As I crested the hill, the beat began. Loudly echoes from a mom’s mini-van , Muse spoke to me — ““They will not control us; We will be victorious; So come on.” Next to a gaggle of girls, my family stood pushing me ahead.

CLOSING IN

Turning the corner, the volunteer offered water, but I shrugged it off shortening my stride and looking ahead to to see the last two miles left to go. My family was looming somewhere near the finish, but in a long race like a marathon two miles is forever. As the orchards began to appear and the smell of cider donuts wafted into the air, I began to relax a little. Instead of glancing at my watch, I looked ahead to see Peter, my best friend from college snap a picture. He saw me before my family and gave one last shout of “You got this girl” before I pushed to the end. As the school came on the horizon, my family’s shape came into view. I was done and twenty minutes better than any marathon before. I figured it would tide me over until spring.

SNAPSHOT

Peter, who was like an adopted son to our family, came to Thanksgiving that year. He brought a copy of the shot from the end of the race. Happy to show me my smile and love of racing at that moment. Realistically, two weeks into a pregnancy would not show any change, yet in that picture I seem rounder than the snapshots from my summer of training. In my hips, I see solidarity. My parents say I look fit, but I can see what they don’t. On marathon day, I was two weeks pregnant with Memphis. My identity of runner and mom merging. In my eyes, I see true joy at knowing I succeeded in reachingmy goal. In my heart, I feel it.

The Not So Good, Pessimo Day in Sicily, by Liz Siracusa

When Liz was working on her personal narrative, she started by making a various timelines of how her story could go. Eventually she settled on this one:

  • Conductor Yelling
  • Shock and Confused Feelings
  • Landing in Brolo
  • Hours of Waiting
  • Feeling When the Train Shows Up

Once she had her timeline, she just typed right into it, stretching each part out with lots of detail (dialogue, actions, thinking, and images). 

This is the same process that lots of students can benefit from when planning a story, then drafting.

Conductor Yelling

“Get off, get off” I could imagine the conductor was yelling at me in Italian as he was guiding us off the train. He was hollering various words that I didn’t understand, louder and louder when he saw that we did not have a ticket reading where our final destination was. I remember the expression on his face, pure panic, frustration, irritation. I looked around at my friends, their faces began to match the face of the conductor. Oh boy, we were in a foreign country, in a town we didn’t know, with people who speak a language we’ve never heard and we were going the wrong direction on the train…for over an hour.

Shock and confused feelings

As we anxiously awaited the next stop we could get off, we were so confused as to how this mistake happened in the first place. We all thought back to the train station where we boarded. On the monitor in the lobby it flashed, “Messina” which was where we needed to go. However, the train we were currently seated on was going to the city of Palermo, three hours north west of our final destination, Siracusa. How could we have gotten on a train going in the complete opposite direction? That question still lives on four years later.

Landing in Brolo

The train slows down to its next stop, Brolo, Sicily. Middle of nowhere would be an understatement. We don’t know how far we are from Messina, if there even is a train going back to Messina, or if we will ever make it back to Siracusa alive. After much wailing, arguing and reflecting, we decided to call Michelle, the director of our study abroad program. We thought perhaps she could help us. We hoped that she could look up the train schedule, telling us if there was any chance another train would come tonight. In the back of my mind her voice from a few days previous kept replaying, whispering, “Never wait until the last train in Italy, it may never come.” She had warned us of the inconstancy of the Italian railroad, being extremely unreliable and under staffed.

Hours of Waiting

Margaret, my roommate and best friend at the time finally gets a hold of Michelle. Come to find out, the only train going back to Messina was in 2 hours. I instantly began to feel slightly more comfortable, thinking “Okay, we can do that, we can be patient and wait.” However, not only do we have to hope that train comes, we have to hope that it will get to Messina quick enough to catch the last train back to Siracusa, which wasn’t promised either.

As we sit on the concrete, dirty, rough ground at the Brolo station, we start to play some games, eat the last of our snacks and avoid the Italian men trying to heckle us for money, food and probably our bodies. Those two hours felt like days. Only two trains passed through. They came at the same exact time and neither stopped. All five of us huddled on the three foot wide platform between them. Let’s just say, between the noises, gust of wind and look on my friends’ faces, my life flashed before my eyes.

Feeling When Train Shows Up

Finally, two hours later, the train had ARRIVED!! Exhausted, nervous and relieved, we are on our way to Messina. Now, let’s hope when we get there we can catch a train to Siracusa!