Will Gregory be able to write a memoir that will make his teacher cry?
It was a normal day in these past few months of quarantine: attending online classes and doing work. I casually got my half-full writer’s workshop notebook, a pencil, and signed into class.
“You will be your own teachers today, guys, as our last few days for the memoir are approaching. Remember, some of my previous students made me cry. Ya think you can push yourselves to do the same?” our teacher concluded after the mini-lesson, raising one eyebrow with a squinted look.
The class didn’t really know how to answer. That was a pretty high bar the teacher had just set. And I wasn’t in the best of moods. I was stuck and didn’t know what to write. I liked memoir because you can choose any structure you want, and you get to write! But my writing still felt too forced, which rarely happens, as writing is one of my most important subjects. I always think of writing classes as being like art, but expressing your feelings with words instead of pictures.
My brain felt as confused as a shark staring at a zig-zagging school of fish. I knew this couldn’t continue. I needed to have a good memoir! That was all that mattered to me. Unable to think, I raced to the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
You can do it, Greg. It’s easy. All you have to do is think of a good story, make it interesting, and zoom in at the right moments. I almost felt positive for a moment!
But then a new memory flowed in: “Remember, some of my previous students made me cry . . .”
That was when I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t care if I made my teacher cry or not, but now I was worried she was just going to cry tears of sadness because I didn’t have a story! Since apparently I was my own teacher now, it was the wrong time for him to go on a coffee break.
It was time for PE. Normally I like PE and feel exhausted and proud when I’m finished ’cause I know my body is getting healthier (even though I am pretty skinny; I’m not exactly muscular). Within thirty minutes (or what felt like hours), the lesson was finished. I wasn’t sweating at all, compared to other times. I wasn’t surprised. The entire lesson, I had barely tried to exercise as my head was worriedly thinking about what I could do to stop this problem. I wasn’t wet at all—except for under my eyes.
I dashed outside to reflect on what I could write about. It was useless. I couldn’t think well; the only thing I could do was lie there in the warm sun.
It was getting close to lunchtime. Today was my babysitter’s birthday. I didn’t want to spoil it just because of an attitude crisis. My little brother came, and I tried to move away from him as politely as I could. I moved to the swings. So did he. He looked at me, asked what happened. When I ignored him, he just started swinging. But he knew something was wrong. He called my dad, who came, and at that point I blasted off into the house. My dad followed me, and for the longest time he stood there, asking me what happened. I refused to answer, hoping he would leave, but he stood there, not willing to move a muscle away from the door for as long as I wouldn’t answer.
“C’mon, Greg. If you tell me what happened, it could make you feel better.”
“No, it won’t,” I said. I walked to the heated balcony, and my dad followed me there. I looked down. “We only have a week for writing, and I don’t have a good story that fits with my theme!”
“I know lots of stories about you, Greg,” my dad said, now on his knees, getting me to look at him.
“It doesn’t work like that!” I said. “I can’t just pick a random story. It has to fit with my subject, and it needs to be a powerful and deep piece.”
My father wasn’t prepared for that. “Listen, Greg, it’s Grace’s birthday today. Don’t ruin it. We can have a talk after dinner tonight.”
I stood up and hugged him. You can run from your loved ones, but you can’t hide, I thought to myself during that nice big hug.
While my parents were preparing the birthday lunch, I hugged my little brother. Even though he was only five, he seemed to know what I had been through and stayed silent, returning the favor.
Finally, I decided that my memoir could be about the thing you are reading right now. The jokes my mother made to cheer me up, my father’s assistance, and my brother’s understanding helped me understand that love and family are the strongest forces on Earth. Like a strip of copper, you can bend it, fold it, twist it, but not break it, ’cause love can’t be broken. And that is how it will always be.