As part of my teaching I write narratives, expository/informational texts and a variety of genres to model myself as a writer for my students. Here is something I wrote for my class narrative example for this semester.
When I Was Young in the Country
(Patterned after Cynthia Rylant’s When I was Young in the Mountains)
When I was young in the country, I roamed the orchards, watching the apricots, pears, and cherries grow from new blossoms to fruit and then drop to the ground to be squished through my toes in my wanderings. I hated wearing shoes! There were fruit trees galore – down the street, across the street, up the hill -plum trees grew in front of the house my father helped build – up to the 2nd story windows.
I remember picking cherries at harvest time with cousins, aunts, and uncles – One time Uncle Bruce told me to be very still and not move – he proceeded to smash a rattlesnake’s head on a rock next to me. He cut off the rattle and gave it to me as a souvenir.
When I was young in the country, I often checked the little stream that meandered through the cow pasture across the street, watching little jelly eggs turn into pollywogs and eventually into frogs. Mom let us out in the morning and told us to be back in time for dinner – everyone did that back then.
When I was young in the country, the world was a different place. It was common to see the kids in the neighborhood walking miles down the road to the local store to buy Bottle Caps, Chick-o-sticks, Sugar Daddies, Big Hunks, Bit-o-Honey, bubble gum cigars, Sweet Tarts – whatever we could buy for 5 cents, 10 cents, or a quarter. Some days we’d buy a Canada Dry grape or orange soda which we couldn’t open until we got home because you had to open them with a can opener – no such thing as pop top cans! Sodas had the coolest names back then: Cactus Cooler, Tahitian Treat, and Purple Passion to name a few.
We’d usually walk down 1700 North, but sometimes we’d go the other way – walking in front of the haunted house – older kids said the man who lived there had killed his wife – we always moved to the other side of the street when we got close – and then moved back after we walked by.
When I was young in the country, I loved playing in a playhouse made by my dad while he worked in the garden up the hill. Sometimes Dad would throw tarantulas back up the hill using a shovel because he said they weren’t dangerous or scary – but warned if we ever saw a black widow spider to stay away.
When I was young in the country, I spent time playing with my cousins next door – on the jungle gym going round and round, making grasshopper, honeysuckle, and mud soup, making tunnels in the snow or sledding down the hill behind our houses – depending on what time of year it was. Both families had huge yards to play in.
Sometimes the cousins and I would catch yellow and black striped caterpillars and put them in a jar with a stick and leaves – keeping them in the unfinished basement until they turned into a chrysalis and eventually into a monarch butterfly – watching them fly around the basement and eventually letting them free.
When I was young in the country, I remember coming in from playing in the snow and putting my hands under cold water – Mom always warned us not to use hot water. She said I would burn my hands because I wouldn’t be able to feel the heat from the numbness. One day I skinned my knee falling off my bike when the road had been recently tarred – Mom cleaned it out – but it stung like crazy. Mom always took care of me.
We used to eat every Sunday on Mom’s best china using crystal goblets (stored in a hidden closet in the dining room). Mom got them when she lived in Germany – it was usually pot roast, yum! We were supposed to be very careful and not break anything.
When I was young in the country, we made weekly trips into town to go to the local library – coming home with a treasure of books for Mom to read to us. One time when we were reading I started bawling my eyes out. Mom was crying so hard at the end of reading Where the Red Fern Grows out loud to us that she had to go get Dad to come in and read for a while until she calmed down. So many tears, so many memories.
When I was young in the country, sometimes things got scary. One morning we woke up and saw blood stains on the driveway. Apparently, some big kids had gotten into a fight the night before! One day I cut myself on a rusty barbed wire fence and had to get a tetanus shot. I never did learn to wear shoes!
Another time my cousin Paul threw a rock at me while we were playing in his front yard– My dad was watching us from the front porch of our house and ran so fast – chasing Paul all the way into his house up against a wall in his bedroom. I think that scared me as much as it did Paul!
When I was young in the country, mom dragged us into the living room to watch the news on our little black and white TV. One time someone had shot President Kennedy and the news was showing it all. Mom said “This is history and it’s important!” I’m not sure I was old enough to know what that meant, but it was something she always said.
When I was young in the country, my sister and I got bored one day. We dragged a chair to the hall closet and climbed up to get a box down from the top shelf. We opened the bottles and ate the little pills like candy. Mom caught us and we got to take a trip to the doctor to get our stomachs pumped for our trouble.
When I was young in the country, girls like me had to wear pants under our dresses at school – even at the bus stop in the snow – because girls had to wear dresses to school no matter what the weather was like. We would wait for the bus in the mornings at the cousin’s house, watching Dark Shadows on TV until the very last second, and then we’d run to the bus stop just in time.
When I was young in the country, I would pick the pussy willows and cattails that grew in the streams running down the street and tear them apart to let the seeds fly away in the breeze – that was one of the only things I could draw so I would draw them in the Sunday program in church when I was bored. Church was every Sunday in the chapel down the street. Dad took us every week, even if Mom didn’t want to go. We also went to Primary on weekdays. Church was a part of my country life.
When I was young in the country sometimes I would sneak into the garage attic to see the Siamese pigs in a bottle my dad had from when he taught science in school. Sometimes we’d play Green Ghost in the cellar which was pitch black when the light was turned off – the pieces glowed in the dark. Sometimes we’d go to the local drive-in movie theater – laying on top of the old station wagon with blankets and pillows – the best seats in the house! Sometimes we’d drive around in the little red VW bug – especially when brother and I were small enough to ride in the gap behind the back seat – something kids are never allowed to do now – seat belts were probably not even thought of yet.
When I was young in the country, there was always family. On holidays uncles, aunts, and cousins would come from all around, sometimes from as far away as California. The kids always got to eat in the cousin’s unfinished basement where we wouldn’t make a mess, usually on a quilt thrown onto the concrete floor. The grown-ups ate upstairs while we had lots more fun downstairs.
When I was young in the country, I thought the world was mine. I never even thought about a world outside of my country home. The orchards, the family, the freedom to roam – the country was always enough for me.