Finding Forrester

It was the day my grandmother exploded.  Or, at least the day her true colors were revealed.  Although it sure felt like an explosion, at least to me.  I was fifteen years old when she died.  I had been closer to her than to any of my other family members.  I remember going to her house almost every weekend, where she taught me a new recipe almost every time.  She made me promise to pass them down to my children once she died, but I tried not to think about that.  She was about five feet tall in stature, and quite round.  Everyone in my family loved her.  She was the sweetest and happiest old lady I could imagine.  And she was never going to die.  In my mind, my grandmother was immortal.  In my mind, my grandmother was perfect.

I believed both of those things, up until the day that she had a stroke in her sleep.  I don’t remember much about the funeral, except that I could barely see anything or anyone the whole time.  People kept coming up to talk to me, to tell me what an amazing person my grandmother was.  But these were people who never came to see her.  People who were never around.  People who barely even knew her.  At that time, I didn’t realize that I barely knew her either.

After the funeral, my mom and I went over to her house to collect some of her things.  My grandmother was my dad’s mom, and it was too painful for him to go there without her, but he wanted us to find her old photo albums, so that when he was ready, he could look back at the pictures and have something to remember her by.  He said that she stored them in the basement.  My mom and I arrived at her house.  It was silent.  Quieter than silent.  The refrigerator hummed in the corner.  The air conditioner clicked on.  A pile of dirty dishes were stacked in the sink.  I could almost see my grandmother rushing to the door to greet me.  But then she disappeared from my imagination as quickly as she had come.  The house was full of memories.  Full of pain.  It hurt too much.

“Why don’t you check in the basement for your father’s photo albums?” my mom suggested, “I’m going to get things cleaned up in here.”

I nodded and headed for the door that I presumed was the basement, although I had never been down there before.  She said it was nothing interesting, just storage.  And she hadn’t been lying.  At least, not about that.  It was about as much storage as you could possibly imagine.  Had my grandmother really been this much of a closet-hoarder?  Boxes and papers and strange and useless little trinkets were piled up at least five feet high.  But those are ordinary things to store, I suppose.  The thing that was extraordinary–aside from there being a ridiculous amount of everything–was the journals.  At least fifty journals were piled up in the corner.  My jaw dropped.  How long had she been keeping these?  I walked over to the corner and took one off the top.  My hands shook and my body trembled in the cold.  I felt like I was invading her privacy, even though she was dead.  I couldn’t do it.  I put the journal back and started to walk away.  But my curiosity got the better of me, unfortunately.  I walked back over and opened to the first page.  If only I hadn’t done that, I never would’ve known.  I would’ve lived my whole life with my grandmother idealized as a perfect person.  I never would’ve discovered that she was a monster.

 

I had to confess somewhere.  I’ve been keeping this too long and it’s eating me up inside.  I tried talking to my brothers, but they don’t understand my guilt.  They don’t understand my pain.  It’s as if they don’t feel any remorse for what we did… Because two years ago, I helped them to murder our mother.

She had been getting very old and sickly.  She counted on my younger brother, Bobby to take care of her, which he did.  But after a few years, I guess he was getting tired of caring for her.  He asked for my help and I did, but not much.  I had my own family to raise.  I didn’t have time for her.

Bobby eventually took her to the doctor.  Mother was given some medicine, but Bobby was warned that she may have an allergic reaction.  If such a thing were to occur, she should stop taking it immediately or she could die.

Mother gladly took the medicine, because she wanted to get better.  It worked like magic, and she began to improve.  But I remember the night that Bobby called me, and said that he thought she may be having a negative reaction to the medicine.  I didn’t know what to do, so I called our oldest brother, John.

John knew exactly what to do.  He told us to make sure that Mother continued to take the medicine.  Bobby asked why he should do that, because then she would die.

John hesitated for a moment, as if deciding whether or not to tell us.  He finally reminded us of  Mother’s massive estate, and how if she died, we would get to keep it for ourselves.  He told us that if the medicine made her feel better, then she should continue to take it.  He convinced us that we weren’t doing anything wrong: we were just allowing her to take medicine that made her feel better.  And if she died, it would be better for us anyway, because we were tired of taking care of her.  For a while, I almost believed him that we were doing the right thing.  So Bobby and I agreed, and continued to give her the medicine.  Mother’s illness continued to improve, but her reaction to the medicine got worse.

One day, she slipped into a coma.  I wasn’t even surprised.   I knew that it was going to happen.  I let it happen.  We took her to the hospital, but she died the next morning.

John scheduled the funeral for Monday, and planned to have her cremated.  but on Friday he called Bobby and I, and said that he was having the body cremated that day.  We didn’t want there to be any evidence.

“Mother was Catholic,” I reminded him, “She wouldn’t have wanted to be cremated.”

“That’s why we’re doing it before everyone else gets here,” John said, “That way, there’s no one to stop us.  It’ll be too late.” 

So the three of us had her cremated.  And by the time the rest of the family came to the funeral, she was already gone.

I killed my mother.  And I got away with it.  And no one will ever find out what we did.

 

You were right, Grandmother.  Nobody found out that you weren’t the perfect little old lady who everyone loved and adored and admired.  You weren’t at all how you appeared.  Everyone has secrets.  I don’t know why I ever believed that you were any different.  And you were right.  Nobody ever did find out what you had done.  Your secrets were never discovered.  At least, not until today.

Catcher in the Rye- Write about anything

Some people say you can “choose happiness,” while others believe that ones happiness is based on the uncontrollable things in their life.  I find this to be a heavily debatable topic: whether your happiness rests in your own hands, or whether it can be influenced by your surroundings or by others.  Everyone is going to have a bad day sometimes.  It happens to everyone.  It just happened to me last week even.  I barely slept the night before, had three tests that day, and everything just seemed to go wrong all at once.  Of course I was unhappy that day, but does that mean I am an unhappy person?

I think the best thing that anyone can do is to try to see the light shining through the clouds on a rainy day.  Sometimes it can be hard to find, but in the end, the sky always clears and the rain stops.  The grass is just damp and the air gets this clean and fresh smell.  Somehow, things always manage to work out in the end.  I think you can choose to be happy to a certain extent.  It is within your control to remember that the storm always clears up, but it is not within your control whether or not all of your teachers decide to assign tests on the same day.  Life is never easy, but is anything easy ever really worth having?  What is more rewarding, getting an A in a low level class without trying, or getting an A in an honors class, after you’ve put in a lot of effort?  It is not enough to simply “choose” happiness.  Happiness is something that you have to work towards, and even then, you may not always achieve it.

While you are always going to have some good days and some bad, you can also choose to see the glass half full or half empty.  Although truthfully, I hate that analogy.  Saying it’s either “half full or half empty” implies that there are only two ways to look at life: positively or negatively.  There aren’t just optimists and pessimists, but there are things in between.  Nobody can be expected to see the positive things in every situation.  Everyone has low points in their lives.  But what is important to remember is that sooner or later, the sun will always come out.  It is important to remember that happiness is not a destination: it is a journey.  It is not something ultimate that you will one day achieve, but something that you can really look for in any moment.  In my opinion, it is not the sunlight that represents happiness.  It is the journey one takes in getting to it.

Catcher in the Rye- Society forcing children to grow up 4/27

Many children and adolescants always try to look and act mature and older than they actually are, because they think that people will take them more seriously or have more respect for them or something.  But truthfully, nothing they do will ever work.  In my opinion, there is no such thing as completely “growing up.”  Sure, you can get older, and you can develop more sophisticated thoughts and opinions, but I don’t believe that the child in anyone ever really dies.

I don’t understand the desire–especially in girls–to grow up so quickly.  Girls in high school, and even in middle school are always dressing up and putting hours into their hair and their make up and their clothes, and they look like they’re ready to go somewhere really nice, but guess where they’re going?  School.  I really don’t understand what they’re trying to accomplish by pretending to be someone that they’re not.  We all know you’re twelve, wearing make up is not going to make me think more highly of you.  In fact, doing things like this to try to make others think you are more mature, actually makes you an extremely immature person.  If you are so shallow that you think your looks or the things that you say or do are going to make you seem grown up, then you are nowhere close to actually growing up.

If anything, “growing up” is learning responsibility and self-discipline.  It is not a single event that forces you to suddenly see life in a different way.  It is not wearing make up or pretending to be someone you’re not.  If anything, growing up is when you learn to accept yourself as who you are, and to accept others for who they are.  It’s when you stop judging people and stop acting like you’re better than everyone else.  “Growing up” is not an act, but a simple change in attitude.  It is not stopping your childlike behaviors because let’s face it, no one ever completely loses their inner child.  All people–even adults–have a child inside of them.  But just because people are capable of behaving like a child, does it mean they still are a child?  Absolutely not.  You can be a mature person and still have the ability to act like a child at appropriate times.  People grow up when they are still able to act like a child, without thinking like one.  “Growing up” is not how a person acts, it is the way that they look at life.

Catcher in the Rye- Things in Society that are Phony 4/20

There are many things in society that are ph0ny, especially the people who live in it.  First of all, if you go downtown in Warren or any other similar suburban town, you will find at least a dozen hair and nail salons, and several banks.  How many salons do you need in one town?!  I never understood why such a thing was necessary.  But I think that this very well defines the majority of people who live in society, where all they care about is their looks and their money, and they judge you based on how good looking and wealthy you are.  This especially applies to women and girls.  I don’t understand the purpose of waking up an hour early to do your hair and your make up and to pick out the perfect outfit.  Personally, I’d rather sleep in an extra hour!  Besides, if your friends are going to judge you based on your physical appearance, then you probably shouldn’t be friends with them anyway.  And if your friends won’t judge you for it, then who are you trying to impress?

Another thing that is phony, aside from people’s physical appearences, is how people act towards others.  Last week, I went to Disney World to perform in the Electric Lights Parade with the marching band.  They allowed us to go backstage in Magic Kingdom, where supposedly “all the magic happens.”  Let me tell you something about that: there is no magic happening there whatsoever.  Imagine going behind the scenes in “the happiest place on earth,” as it is called.  You probably picture the characters dressing up, and putting on costumes, and laughing and smiling, because that’s what you see them doing when they come out, right?  Well, that’s completely wrong.  There is no laughter or smiling back there, and in fact, it is the total opposite.  It’s nearly silent and quite depressing, and everyone looks miserable.  While we were preparing for our parade, my friends and I looked over and saw Snow White.  Excited to be seeing one of the characters backstage, my friend jumped up and started waving and yelled “Snow White!”  The actress looked at us, made eye contact with my friend, and then immediately looked away.  Can you believe that?!  We were literally snubbed by a Disney princess!  Later on, we saw Snow White in the parade, dancing and waving to the children, and smiling and looking as happy as ever.  What I’m trying to say, is that I think many people in our society are a lot like Snow White.  They look happy and cheerful and they smile and wave at you and seem perfectly nice, until you go backstage and see that they’re not very nice or very happy at all.  It just makes you think about people that you see every day in your life who smile and say nice things, and it makes you wonder if they’re really genuine, or if they’re just like Snow White.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

This book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is very controversial, as many people believe that it should be banned for its use of foul language and explicit detail.  However, an alternate point of view is that these things give the book life and character, and make it more realistic and relateable.

One example of such occurence is on page 46.  Junior narrates, “Yeah, Dad is a drunk and Mom is an ex-drunk, but they don’t want their kids to be drunks.”  While this statement partially says that his parents are loving and want the best things for their children, it also very light-heartedly references alcoholism, as if it is not such a big deal.  There are many other incidents in the book that refer to alcohol casually, and it makes it seem as though since so many people drink and so many people are alcoholics, it’s great if you’re not one, but if you are, it’s okay, because everyone else is too.  I understand the need to provide insight into Junior’s life and his heritage, but I do not think it is necessary to talk about such serious things in such an indifferent manner.

On pages 150-151, Junior’s dad does not have enough money for Christmas presents because he spent it all on alcohol.  Some people may find these blunt references to his alcoholic parents and his father’s “epic hangover” to be inappropriate and even shocking.  While I understand this perspective, I believe that these situations present Junior in a more sympathetic light to the audience, and effectively explain the unfortunate situation that he is in.

Another example that some people might find offensive, is on page 197, after Junior emails Rowdy about the basketball game, Rowdy replies, “‘We’ll kick your asses next year… And you’ll cry like the little faggot you are.'”  I am aware that the intent of the profanity used by the author was to provide insight to Rowdy’s offensive personality, but I do not think that it was completely necessary to use such obscene and bigoted language.  I–like many others–am apprehensive about this particular example, and do not agree that such foul language was essential in order to convey the author’s point.

While some of these controversial examples were necessary to give a realistic setting and to give true voices to the characters, I feel that sometimes, the author went too far in his use of explicit language and inappropriate content.

Where I’m From poem

I am from swingsets and beach toys and chalk on the driveway

Scraping my new shoes against the pavement and not having a care in the world

From the neighborhood park and the bike riding street and my best friend’s window next door

I am from cookie cutter houses and elaborate swingsets that are never used

From perfectly manicured lawns and people behind closed doors in their houses decorated by other people

Watching people busy rushing from one scheduled activity to the next in their oversized gas-guzzling SUV’s

I am from my mom’s homemade chocolate chip waffles and grandmother’s holiday dinners

I am from gingerbread houses and ornaments on Christmas eve

From fireworks and patriotic cakes and sitting on the roof of the car

Keeping up traditions even in the pouring rain

I am from boxes on the nightstand and in the closet

From diaries and notebooks stashed under my bed

With people who change but memories that stay the same

I am from wisdom and courage

Accepting the things I cannot change and changing the things I cannot accept.

Antigone Essay

When my brother was in fourth grade, there was a boy who moved to New Jersey from overseas, and was immediately ostracized by the other children.  He barely spoke English and since he was so poor, he had a small variety of clothing.  He was a foot taller than the other children, and weighed almost two hundred pounds.  The boy was instantly ousted by his peers, because he was different.  The students in his class barely spoke to him, and if they did, it was only because they were making fun of his English, his financial situation, or his size.  The teasing and taunting got so bad, that even the teachers and administrators at the school were at a loss of what to do.  The boy cried often, and sat by himself.

Three months after the school year began, my brother was switched into the boy’s class.  My brother, Troy, saw the boy alone and being picked on, and he didn’t like that.  Troy instantly befriended the boy and made him feel comfortable, ignoring the other children’s taunts, that were now aimed at him as well.  My brother stood up to the mean kids when they picked on the boy.  He stood up for his new friend and for himself.  It was not long before my brother began to see a different side of the boy: despite his large physical appearance, inside, he was sweet and gentle.  Inside, he was just a little boy.

Soon, the other kids began to notice how much fun Troy and the boy were having, and while they still teased Troy, their original dislike had evolved into a respectful resentment.  The other children respected my brother for having the courage to befriend the boy that no one wanted to sit with.   My brother encouraged some of the students in the class to join him and the boy when they were playing.  Each day, more and more children came to sit with them, and it was only shortly after spending time with the boy, that the other children began to accept him, and many even came to appreciate his differences, and befriend him.

My brother stood up for what he believed in: that all children should be treated with kindness and respect.  He was truly blind to the boy’s physical differences that the other children saw.  Troy put himself at risk and endured taunting and teasing himself, to take a stand against bullying, and to make this boy comfortable in what must have seemed like a different world.  The boy is now strong and confident, and no longer vulnerable to the taunting that he once received from his peers.  So not only did my brother make his point to the other children, but he also changed the boy’s life.

Raisin in the Sun Writing Assignment

In his “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. argues the same points that are brought up in the play, A Raisin in the Sun.  Both pieces of work explain the unfairness and unreasonableness of the prejudice against African Americans in the early and mid-1900’s.  Martin Luther King presents the struggles faced by the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun, in an orderly and simplified fashion.  Both pieces of writing state the same opinions about the irrational hate for, and bigotry against African Americans; one in the form of a story, and the other as a speech.

Martin Luther King said that according to the Declaration of Independence, all men should “be guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’”  This means that in A Raisin in the Sun, the Youngers should not have been criticized before they were even met.  The white families were willing to pay large amounts of money to keep African Americans out of their neighborhood because of pure bigotry and stereotypical assumptions.  The Youngers were “judged by the color of their skin” as opposed to “the content of their character,” as said by Martin Luther King.  It was biased and unfair of the white people to make it clear that they did not want the Youngers as their neighbors, because making prejudiced assumptions about another person’s character based on their skin color is the opposite of equality, and goes directly against the Declaration of Independence.

The Youngers are not wanted in the house that they bought, because the white people in the neighborhood don’t want black people there.  The Youngers were not trying to make any racial problems.  They simply liked that house, and wanted to move there.  As Martin Luther King said, “the Negro… finds himself an exile in his own land.”  As shown in A Raisin in the Sun, blacks were unwanted by white people, and it was made bluntly obvious to them that they were unwelcome in a house that they bought with their own money, and should have been permitted to move into.  Toward the end of the play, Walter Lee Younger declares that he and his family are going to move into their new house, whether they are wanted by their neighbors or not, as they should have as equal a right to live there as anyone else.  The Youngers were not moving into their house to cause any trouble, but because they believed that they should be allowed to live where they wanted to live. They did not want to take the check that they were offered to leave, because they wanted their house, and believed that what was being done to them was unfair, and that they were not being treated with the equality that the Declaration of Independence says that they are entitled to.  They refused to give white people the power to make them leave their new home.  Like Martin Luther King said, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.”

Both Martin Luther King and A Raisin in the Sun present a similar view on the bigotry against African Americans. Although Martin Luther King’s speech was nonfictional, and A Raisin in the Sun was fictional, both pieces of work made related points about the injustice of segregation based on race.  They agreed that all people should be created equal, just as the Declaration of Independence states, and that one should not be judged or stereotyped based on the color of their skin. Both Martin Luther King and the Youngers were peaceful people, who were not trying to make any trouble, but to simply live the lives that they were entitled to as American citizens.  These two pieces of writing summarize the injustice of prejudice against African Americans in the 1900’s, and explain why all people should be treated with fairness, respect and equality.

2011 Year

Osama bin Laden was killed

Americans were thrilled

The terrorist leader was dead

The end to terrorism is ahead.

 

Egyptians worked as one

A revolution had begun

To free the country of corrupt authority

Was their number one priority.

 

Disaster struck Japan

Leaving citizens without a plan

A tsunami followed by an earthquake

A lot of lives it had to take.

 

North Korea, the communist nation

Is in mourning and devastation

Over the death of their leader, Kim Jong-Il

Even though he took away their free will

And unfair laws he had instilled.

 

Two thousand and eleven was a great year

The arrival of the two thousand and twelve is near

Let us hope it is just as great

And wait for it to be decided by fate.

Escape from Sobibor

Fear was depicted in the movie, Escape from Sobibor, just before the prisoners were about to escape.  One woman broke out into tears, showing that she was afraid of the Nazis, and of what might happen to her.  She experiences such emotions of fear, because she, and many others, have allowed the Nazis to have power and control over them.  When a corrupt authority terrorizes forces people to feel fear, they are gaining power over the people, because people who fear for their lives and for the lives of their loved ones, are willing to do anything to protect themselves.  This photograph: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery/46199.HTM also expresses fear, through the eyes of the little boy holding his hands up to surrender to the Nazis, after trying to escape.  Since the boy is defenseless against the gun-bearing soldiers, he is afraid that they are going to kill him, and he wants only to protect himself so that he can live.  This shows the power that the Nazis have over him, as they have him and many others so afraid that they sacrifice themselves to the Nazis, so that they will be able to live.  These two examples of fear are similar, because it shows how much power the Nazis had over the Jews, because the Nazis were able to frighten the Jews by using force, or by threatening to.  Both of these people: the woman from the movie, and the little boy from the photograph, fear for their lives, which lie in the powerful and corrupt hands of the Nazis.

One example of bravery from Escape from Sobibor is when Leon, Sasha, and several others, plotted to have the entire camp flee.  This was extremely brave of them, because if anyone figured out their plan, they would be killed.  Later on, when all of the Jews ran from the camp together, they demonstrated even more bravery, as three hundred lives were sacrificed in order to save the other three hundred that successfully escaped from Sobibor.  This is an example of how although many people give in to their fear and allow the Nazis to be in control of them, there are those who stand up to the corrupt authority, for their own benefit and also for the benefit of others.  Another example of bravery is shown in this photograph: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/gallery/p463.htm.  It shows two women who are about to be executed after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, because they attempted to use guns to overpower the Nazis that were imprisoning them.  Looking at their faces is like looking directly into the face of bravery, because they are accepting that they tried to protect themselves and others in the ghetto, but did not succeed, and are now willing to die with hopes that maybe someday, the other Jews will be successful in achieving freedom.  Both women look slightly afraid of their fate, but true bravery is being afraid of something, and doing it anyway.  Bravery is demonstrated through people who are unwilling to give even more power to the Nazis, and who potentially sacrifice their lives so that they–and others–can escape captivity.  These people demonstrate true bravery and selflessness, regardless if they are ultimately successful.