Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paige Went Forth

So, here's a picture of the taconic sweater modeled by its recipient. I told Paige that she didn't have to keep it if she didn't like it, but she said that she did like it; she just didn't think it was very flattering. I know what she means. It's pretty yarn, but it and the sweater are a bit heavy. Why is Paige smiling so happily then. ..Because she's going camping at Pismo Beach tonight. The kids (not the teachers, boo hoo) have tomorrow off. iI's one of Paige's best friend's birthday, and one of her friend's mom's is taking (and staying with) a crew of six of them. They have the crazy idea that they'll be swimming, but unless it's a lot warmer over there than here, they'll barely feel like even having their suits on.

I have an English project that I assign every year to my juniors. I have them emulate Walt Whitman's poem A Child Went Forth. I'm not a huge "Uncle Walt" fan, but I do I love this poem. I have the kids replace his important language with their own, and they come up with their own unique and often beautiful poem. I've had some tearjerkers over the years because the kids often go all out for this project, and they're at that perfet age where they remember all of the kid stuff, but are teeterering on adulthood. They have to create webpages about their lives to go with the poem, and then we present them in the class. I've been meaning to share Paige's poem for quite a while mainly just to show off, and because any time I feel like she's an ungrateful, frustrating kid who hasn't appreciated her parents' near-obsession with making her life great, I read this, and I think that maybe we've done OK.

Most kids just give it the title "A Child Went Forth," but Paige called hers

THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object she look'd upon, that object she became;
And that object became part of her for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The smell of the early coffee beans became part of this child,
And cinnamon apples, and cilantro and shrimp pesto pasta, and black and white cats, and the classical songs to help her fall asleep,
And the sixth-month Nebraska visits, and the yearly Humbolt County Fairs, and the trips to the coast and farmer's markets, and the Sundays in Bakersfield eating at Chipoltle's after church.
And the noisy barks of Beagles from outside her door, the voices of joggers outside her window.
And the fish from her friend who moved to Kansas suspending themselves to the top of their fish bowl after living for three years,
And the See Canyon apples with their delicious sweet fruit became part of her.

The hot weather of the fifth month and almost every month became part of her;
camomile tea, and those of the candy corn bag every Halloween, and the pink or purple flowers of the garden,
And the apricot, plum, and peach-trees cover'd with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and oranges and Kumquats,
and the prettiest poppies by the fence;
And the Parkview kids skipping home from school, whence she had once attended,
And the two and a half high school years that had already pass'd so quickly,
And the volleyball seasons that pass'd-and the basketball and swimming seasons,
And the straight hair, Hollister dressed girls-and the Ugg boots on every boy and girl,
And all the changes of Taft and Bakersfeild and desert, wherever she went.

Her own parents, He that had father'd her, and she that had conceiv'd her in her womb, and birth'd her,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave her afterward every day-they became part of her.
The mother at school and home, helpful, observative, loving, short-tempered, beautiful; also becoming one of her best friends, sometimes verbal competitor, or at school the distinctive jingle of her keys when she walks down the hall;
The mother with made-up words describing everything she likes by dropping the last few letters of the word but keeping the s(such as "Beags") or making up new laws to life, such as " shared candy bars do NOT count", a chuckle coming out of her
The father, friendly, caring, annoying, joking, concerned;
The blog, the quick run, the late night reading, the tan meals,
The family traditions, the language, the vacations, the candles-the growing and appreciative heart,

Affection that will not be faded-the sense of the future-the thought if, after all, it should prove amiss,
The doubts of school-time and the doubts during athletics,
the curious why and what, why it is how it is, or what is the answer, is it all memories and hopes?
Men and women disappointed and pleased, what is their purpose?
The mud pies, the friends moved away, the birthday dinner, the favorite non-matching outfit, the one stolen candy from the store,
the books read aloud, the golden retriever long gone, playing trucks with her brother, visits from Black Bart,
the forgotten fights between best friends, the SSL Volleyball Championship freshman year,
the cell phones new, broken, then dropped in the pool, broken, lost, broken, dropped on the floor, broken,
the parties Friday night at the Kopp household, the first lost grandparent, finding another best friend,
the trip to the Getty and Medieval Times, the trip to Hearst Castle, the anticipation of getting the first im-perfect report card, first love, where to go to college, who will you meet, who will you loose, what will you look like, what will you accomplish, what will happen to your kids, when will you die?;

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

It's so full of familial allusions that it may not be an interesting poem to non-family members (so that means I put it here for you to read, Ann, since you're my only faithful family reader) but I love it, so I shared it.


Wool Winder said...


KnittingBlueContent said...

Wellll, it's not *freezing* here, but it's not overly warm either.

Kids though - they do the crazy things that we wouldn't be caught dead doing now . . . like going in the ocean Mid-March, lol.

Hope she has a fun time visiting here! I think the apple places are all closed up in See Canyon right now (well, they were when we drove through a few weeks ago) but I'm sure she'll find some other local yum to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Oh,since I have been a poet my whole life....this is so special to me. It is just AMAZING....really really really great. You should be so proud of yourselves and of my precious Paige. Makes me weep.

Hege said...

I think the sweater looks great on her!

Rani said...

First, the sweater is really cute and with the right pair of jeans or a cute skirt, it will look wonderful!

The poem is lovely! Thanks for sharing. What a great idea!

Thimbleanna said...

Wow. I got just a little tear-y there. What a fun thing to have the kids do, and especially your own. Just a bit wistful here, wondering what my own children would put in their poem....

Julie said...

Wow - tell Paige I think her poem is Fabulous! I don't think anyone has to be family to appreciate that Paige has a lot of good memories of her time as a child and teenager. I too became a bit teary-eyed just reading it, because you can sense the love in her words. Brava. And lovely sweater too - perfect for a night at the beach (sans her loving parents).

Willow said...

I love it too and I'm not family. What a great idea for a lit project.

Tracy said...

The sweater is lovely! I love that rich, deep plum color...But I imagine it is heavy to wear. Paige looks so pretty in that color though! The poem is wonderful, and I love this assignment. I'm not a Whitman fan either--LOL! Happy Days ((HUGS))

JayJay said...

A nice woolly sweater for wearing on the beach in winter seems like a good thing. I think it turned out great!

Wow, that poem is lovely! You must be very proud.

MRS MJW said...

Beautiful sweater there. Nice work.

TheBlackSheep said...

I love that sweater! It's sooooo purty! And it does look good on her.

marit said...

I think Paige looks good in her new sweater! Love the poem she wrote!

Bec said...

Your daughter's poem brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it. This is a great assignment. I hope the kids treasure their work. Well, maybe in a decade or two they will look back on it and appreciate it.