Mr. Middleton’s Writing Assignment
Ever wonder what your kid does in school all day? Last week, at a take your parent to school day, I had a chance to follow my sixth grader from class to class, something I had been threatening to do to my older son to make sure he writes down all his homework assignments and hand them in on time.
I spend the morning at West Hills Middle School, a 4-8 Grade upper elementary and middle school. With my son I used a nail, a magnet and a smooth piece of glass to identify minerals in science class, and made bracelets according to a very old tradition in a fictitious island nation to learn about the concepts of market economy in social studies.
My favorite, of course, was my son’s writing class. Like the other classes, the parents in the class could not just sit back and sip their morning coffee while they watched their kids work. No, we had to do work too. A student passed around clip boards, pencils and paper to the parents. Then, Mr. Middleton said we were about to see a photo and we were to write for five solid minutes, no thinking, no erasing, just write whatever came to one’s mind based on what the picture would trigger.
Okay, Mr. Middleton, I’ve had three cups of coffee. I’m a writer. I’ve got this! Let’s go.
And then he posted this.
And I felt my heart flip-flop.
A tutor house… the white stucco with the brown trim.. how I miss it…..
How I always thought it would be the home I would grow old in….
The home where my kids were babies. A home where the roof leaked if it rained just a bit too hard, just like when the last fragments of Hurricane Katrina blew through Western New York, or a roof that was porous enough to let a few bats through one winter when my current sixth grader was just an infant.
The leaded glass and the tiny windows in the walk-up attic….
How I still miss it, the attic with the full bathroom and a claw-foot bathtub… the third room that my baby moved into when he could no longer stand sharing a room with his older brother.
The water below reminds me of the Erie Canal
From Albany to Buffalo it went, and for miles, you can bike or walk along it.
There are not places like this I have yet to find in Michigan, at least not near my home. You don’t get to walk near water in the Detroit suburbs. Oh yeah, there are lots of lakes, all on private property You just get fleeting glimpses of them as you speed by on the drive from here to there …
And that is how far I got. Wow, look at me, almost two years after my move, there are still parts of me pining away for my old haunts.
But you really can’t go home.
Last week, my husband took our sons back to Rochester for a visit for a special occasion of some friends back there. My husband said it was great to be back to catch up with old familiar faces and places.
But some places, our home, looked very different.
The big old silver maple that graced the front of our house had to be cut down because age and time rotted it from the inside out.
My husband sent this photo to me in a text and I burst into tears:
If I had to write about this picture, all I would say is: Nothing lasts forever. Thank you, tree, for my kids’ thinking spots and photos on the first day of school. Thank you for your shade, your carpet of leaves in the fall and your shower of helicopter seeds in early summer.
Nothing stays the same.
Thank you, Mr. Middleton, for this great trip down memory lane and for getting our kids’ creativity flowing!
Here is a writing challenge: Find a photo in an old box, on the web, and just go, for five minutes. What did you come up with, let me know and share in the comments.