Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Slices of my Life with Grandpa Burt!

My Grandfather Burt passed away early Tuesday morning at the age of ninety-three. He and my grandmother celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this past November. We had a small family memorial service today and below are the slices of his life that I shared that resonate within me.

At ages ten and twelve, Ben and I thought we knew all we needed to know about fireworks, at least the little ones mom allowed Patti to buy for us. Armed with some bottle rockets, a couple of strings of Black Cats and other small pyrotechnics, we set off into the empty lot across the alley from Mom’s house with Grandpa as “Chaperone.” After helping us light a few, he produced an envelope.

“Put the string of Black Cats inside and thread the fuse out of this hole,” he said as he tore a small hole in one edge of the envelope. We did and loved how the paper seemed to disintegrate before our eyes before it caught on fire and we has to stamp it out.

Then he held out a light plastic bowl. “Put one under it with the fuse sticking out.” We followed his directions and upon detonation, the bowl was blown skyward almost fifteen feet into the air! Small piles of dirt, a soda can, and anything else we could experiment with met the same fate that afternoon. The twinkle in Grandpa’s eyes showed how much he enjoyed it too.

The lonesome train whistle blew as we stepped out of Rube’s Steakhouse into the twilight of rural Iowa. It was like a siren call for Grandpa and he was off like a shot, racing to the railroad tracks across the dusty parking lot. He loved trains! The cars whistled by him, as he stood closer than I dared to in my college-age bravado. As the last car sped past and his hair settled along with the particles picked up by the train’s passing, Grandpa’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

My Grandpa Burt, 93 years young, and my daughter, 3 years old.
Down the hall, legs swinging, hands clasped on the bar in front of her, Clara rides like a queen on Grandpa’s walker. He makes little “whoo” noises as he guides her towards the dining room, occasionally making slight swerves that elicit giggles and directions to change course or “Go straight Grandpa Burt!” Even though they are separated by ninety years, during their grand entrance, everyone see that their eyes twinkle with shared delight and have the same sparkle.

These stories are just a few memories I have of grandpa but they also contain some important lessons for me as a teacher and as a man. Being a chaperone doesn’t always mean it has to be less fun for those you watch. Always run towards your passions. Don’t be afraid to make a grand entrance when it brings light and joy to others!

Black Cat photo credit: <a href="">Calsidyrose</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Locomotive photo credit: <a href="">Jeff S. PhotoArt</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Monday, April 14, 2014

Slice of Life - Where I'm From

Join me and others writers who post weekly Slices of Life, each Tuesday, throughout the year at the Two Writing Teachers website.  Today's slice is an assignment I gave my poetry group in my class. It is inspired by the poem Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon. See his poem and website at I'm excited to hear the Where I'm From poems written by my students and a little scared to share mine.

Where I'm From 
by Max Maclay

I am from the mountains,
Tall, green and piney,
Whispering in the wind,
Bright in the moonlight
And dark as space.
From orange lichen-covered rocks
Scraping my knees, and thighs.
Bloody red sacrifices to stand King.

I am from the city,
Silver spires shooting high,
Crowded, noisy, smelly,
Bike paths, music, broken glass
And Red lights.
Green lights too.

I am from brown and dusty cornfields,
Pick-up trucks, apple pie, cowboys hats,
Predicting the rain,
And Friday Night Lights.
I did not belong there,
But now I am from there,
And it lives in me.

I am from my parents' love.
Showing me courage, 
How to grow,  
To do Right, even when it's hard.
How to do it wrong
And keep moving on.

I am from divorced parents,
Three step-moms,
Only one "evil"
(and she saved my life.)
Bonus parents, bonus moms, bonus presents, 
Bonus love.

I am from blueberry buttermilk pancakes on Sunday,
Gingerbread Men, Christmas cookies, 
And stale candy snitched from the gingerbread house.
I am from grilled meat, baseball on TV, 7UP in the hammock
And inappropriate use of pepperoni before a trip.

I am from a classroom and a school
Games, puzzles and wordplay,
Puns, jokes and cake on the first Tuesday of the month.
A recipe shared, 
Again and again and again.

I am from the doctor's office,
Sadly supportive, finding the bright side, optimistic.
Trying for six years,

I am from another damn baby shower,
Another damn pink baby announcement,
Another damn fake smile,
Another batch of misplaced and uncontrollable resentment.

I am from the delivery room
Praising modern science
Responsible for more than I ever imagined.
I am one-for-three

I am from the deeds undone,
Letters unwritten, 
Hugs missed,
Apologies unsung.

I am from altitude's thin air, 
Snatching my breath before I'm done,
So high, the earth curves away,
The colors impossible.

I am from the mountains.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April is National Poetry Month - "Wait Five Minutes"

April is National Poetry Month. After successfully completing the March Slice of Life Challenge, I am going to try and write and post poetry often this month. I will have to figure out where to link up to share beyond Facebook, but I figure it's more about the writing than the page views at this point.  Here is my first April Poem, inspired after two days of playing in Summit County, Colorado with my family.

Wait Five Minutes  by Max Maclay

Jackets on,
Flakes swirl
In large catchable numbers.
They do not stick

Jackets off,
Sun shines
Icicles drip
Rivers are born.

Clouds drift in and out,
April in the high country.

Sledding with Clara in the sun and snowflakes