Scraps are often discarded by tailors, cooks, and writers– but sometimes they are transformed by possibility. An unused basil leaf from tonight’s dinner can add flavor to tomorrow’s scrambled eggs; left over pieces of velveteen from a costume can add texture to a pillow; and the tiniest scrap of memory can be expanded into a personal story.
This week we will read The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Pollaco. She transforms scraps of fabric into memoir as she shows how her family turned the same scraps into a quilt that has been the backdrop of tradition in her family. Perhaps there is a scrap of fabric at your house that holds a story for you to tell.
Last week we decorated our writer’s notebooks. Some people might look at the covers and see scraps. We saw collage! Quilts and Collage provide the perfect metaphor for writing; they demonstrate composition in its most basic form. I loved watching children place and reposition “scraps” until they were just right. They are learning that writers do the same thing with memories, words, and ideas.
Do you ever come across a piece of poetry—a line or rhyme that you learned long ago and seems to bubble out of nowhere? This will happen to our students more and more as they learn to recite poetry this year. No one is ever forced to memorize or recite a poem, but it is amazing how many children choose to do it. Bits and pieces of poetry will be incorporated into a collage for the second notebook later in the year.
This week we will learn our first poem: Autumn by Emily Dickinson. I memorized it long ago, and I’m never surprised when a line surfaces in my mind at this time of year. I walked though the woods this weekend and couldn’t help but notice:
The morns are meeker than they were
The nuts are getting brown,
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town…
Emily Dickinson is a good place to start. She wrote the words that best name my experience as a teacher: “I dwell in possibility.”
This weekend I gave to Josie a china doll my mother assembled and sewed for me when I was a child. It’s Martha Washington. I NEVER played with it, compelling my big sister to write, “Poor Martha…” in her childhood journal. I gave it to Josie explaining that her grandmother (whom she never met) had made this and it was of utmost importance that she be careful with it. My mom made all the clothes, etc. Josie (a doll girl, unlike me) was enthralled by it, saying, “Mom, Martha is so lovely I can’t bear to leave her!”) In the box with the china doll was a doll-sized afghan that my great-grandmother had sewn from scrap squares from her full-size afghans. It so happens that Josie is named for my great-grandmother (Josephine, “Nana Jo” who came over every Monday night). I explained that her namesake had made the afghan. How funny, then, to read your “scrap” blog this morning. And to think of this weekend’s events and also to recall the huge quilt my mom made (which my sister now has) decorated with scraps (in the pattern of flower petals) from all the Easter dresses she ever sewed for us.
What a lovely story! Thanks!
Silas knows that I leave overhead pens in the bathroom cabinet and we take turns writing bits of poetry or prose on the mirrors and shower door often. A couple of weeks ago he wrote “the sky is dull and gray/as if the gods were punishing us”. I wasn’t surprised then to find out that you all had just been discussing Atlas and the weight of the world. These kids sew bits together all day long!
Thanks for adding another wonderful “patch” to our quilt!
“Experience is the teacher of all things” This is how Julius Caesar said it in around 52 B.C.
Every moment in our lives becomes interwoven into our experience in some way. Not a scrap is wasted, especially on children.
It often happens in our house that Robert will suddenly ask me a question about something that happened days, weeks or months ago. I may have temporarily put it out of my mind, but when I do remember it usually leads to a much deeper discussion about something related. The littlest event or conversation has created an entire memory for him, and the feelings, associations, and related knowledge that come from that scrap can be huge. We should all remember that everything we do or say becomes part of the history we are writing with our children. How will they remember it?
Ephemera… it’s so powerful! Just proves you can find poetry everywhere.