Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Right Out of the Pot

The following narrative is my mentor text for my students. Explaining my thinking and process, I wrote this piece in front of my class. Our goal is to write a short narratives built on pieces of our family history.
Recent class conversation has centered on both the basic human values we see in our ancestors as well as the cultural context of the stories and factual information gathered about our ancestors. Yes, they are working on their family history too…as I work on it with all of you.
My narrative is combination of facts, family stories, and details that I imagined. More specifically, I grew up always hearing that my grandfather was a good man, a generous man…who also happened to eat from the pot one night while walking down the street. Based in 1950s Philadelphia, this is my interpretation of my gathered pieces that I wrote for my students to learn from:

"Jennie, doll, I gotta go give Carmen a hand--"
"Sit down and eat first," Jennie said.
She set three bowls on the kitchen table. It was white linoleum and chrome. An empty pack of matches wedged under a leg kept it from wobbling.
"Jennie, doll, I gotta catch Carmen before he leaves for work."
Their young daughter, Joanie, sat at the head of the table. No one else was allowed to sit in her chair. She kicked at the chrome legs with the heels of her saddle shoes. Weeks of scuff marks exasperated her mother.
"Joanie, you're going to polish that chair if you keep that up." 
"Sorry, mommy." 
Jennie ladled two bowls of a creamy pasta fagioli. Joanie's was ladled first, as always. She immediately started blowing on the steam to make it swirl like saints and angels.

Just as Jennie pulled back to ladle a bowl for John, he swiped the pot from her hand and planted a big kiss on her cheek--all in one quick motion. Jennie stepped back, startled and smiling.

John said, "Sit and eat with Joanie, I gotta catch Carmen. He asked for my help."

He grabbed a spoon and hustled through the dining room, living room, and out the screen door.
"Johnny, don't lose my pot!"
The screen door clicked shut. John, hurrying down the sidewalk, ate right from the pot.

Joanie watched the screen door and chewed a big spoonful of dinner. Jennie knew something was up. She knew that look. Jennie stirred the beans and pasta with her spoon. She frowned at her daughter's legs which had starting kicking at the chrome legs of the chair again.


Before Jennie finished her thought, Joanie pushed her chair back, gathered up her bowl, spoon, and napkin and left the kitchen. Carrying her bowl so that it didn't spill, she took careful, deliberate steps through the dining room.

Smirking, Jennie called to her daughter, "Where do you think you're off to?"

"I gotta go see Carmen too."

The screen door closed with a soft click.

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