a quarter for a nickel

It’s been a while since I’ve done an intensive research paper. I am writing my thesis on the viability and productivity of microfinance in agriculture, specifically in the developing world. My advisor told me I should just start writing…knowing it would be rough. This idea isn’t unique to him, I want to start writing, my friends seem to think I should start writing, my family religiously believes I should have started writing. As I go to sleep I think, I should start writing – tomorrow. Every time I go to write I freeze, or I write something unimpressive. It’s because I feel I need more research. So I find article after article, organization after organization. Send a few emails, set up some informational interviews, read articles, and look at a blank Microsoft Word document. I’ve put in days of research and the most I could confidently write about is only a sentence or two. Days invested, for a mere hour of output.

It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten how easy writing can come when the prep work is in. Narratives are more fun, I can jot down random thoughts and piece them together later. If I jot down mediocre sentences it’ll double the work later on when I have to sift and glean and clean. I will keep researching. I will keep reading. I will shut out the foreign pressures of the universe and do what I do. I’ll have a rough draft soon though, as it is my cultural criticism.

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making crafty cards

I’m writing a birthday note to my Grandfather. I’m surprising him for his 82nd birthday this Thursday. He shares his birthday with my brother, who will be turning 15. I’ve noticed handwritten notes mean the most to my Grandparents. They wrote to each other for 7 years while separated in their 20s. I don’t think I communicate how I feel about them through action/casual conversation very well. Not that I am cold or quiet, but rather that I love them so much and think so highly of them that it would seem ridiculous to act out and would be unnatural. So, I’ve reverted to letter writing. I immediately knew I wanted to write to my Grandfather, which means I also need to write my Grandmother as her birthday is just two weeks prior. He recently wrote a 70 page memoir that we are forcing him to expand [as some of our favorite stories were left out]. An Irish immigrant, LAPD cop, self-educated man, lover of Robert Frost, self-proclaimed investor.. I’ve realized with age that he is perhaps my favorite human being on the planet. His strict exterior waring off as he’s aged has probably been the biggest help in this realization. But this is secret, Grandma can’t know. And I am mustering back to my childhood as I make her a card.

Ironically, my Grandmother was the one who made the greatest impact on my life. Three days a week she’d pick me up from school. She’d sit on two pillows in the driver’s seat, [she’s a fright for worrying and this corrected her posture] huge ginormous sunglasses, and blonde blonde hair.  She corrected my grammar, mid-sentence, mid-conversation, probably mid-presentation if she had the chance. We fought like baboons. Literally, like baboons. I’d run around the table, looking back, her agility and energy is beyond impressive, her voice would pierce through the walls. I didn’t want to practice piano. I’d even feign indigestion and spend the afternoon in the bathroom – just to be a child brat, though she thought of me as child star. If you think about it, really, an hour and a half piano lesson three times a week seems overkill for a 7 year old. During summer months I’d be swimming and I’d make it so my time above water was too quick for me to hear her saying “katherine.” Thinking about how quick she got at saying my name makes me laugh, but also want to smack myself. Maybe it was payback for her grammatical corrections or her forcing 4 glasses of Ovaltine per day. I think she was my outlet, and I was her’s. Classic family dynamics – it was all out of love. In fairness, she has an unhealthy obsession with me. Nowadays she gets angry if I don’t call enough, now she gets angry every time because she can’t remember when I’ve last called. Usually only two days ago. It’s the same conversation over and over and over and over and over and over.

How do you like it up there? And have you got good friends? It’s a wonder you don’t struggle academically. I commit the sin of pride everyday thinking of you. My friends can’t believe when I tell them where you are. And do you like it up there? We can’t wait for you to find a job in Los Angeles.

I don’t want to find a job in Los Angeles. I’ve been here four years, obviously I have friends. I do struggle, you just don’t remember last month.

I don’t listen or else I don’t have patience. I can’t listen or else I can’t not think about it. Its all out of love. I am so grateful for piano, so glad I have a decent lexicon, so happy I’ve learned to laugh at myself like she does. So proud I remind people of her. She’s a published author, a poet, a musician, a radio host, a consistent life of the party. She’s my favorite person too, I just can’t remember it.

narrative + reflection

Mission: I wanted to be able to capture a lot more than what I would blatantly say – typical of a shorter narrative. I wrote it from my ten-year-old perspective, but with an undertone of self-deprecation to show how I’ve changed or how I see my younger self. In short, I wanted to strike a balance of legitimizing my feelings then, but also highlight my responses as ridiculous. I had a hint of ridiculousness as a kid.

 

In need of Guinness

It’s no Go-Pro. More than a few pounds, it’s the size of a standard toolbox. Dad lugs it everywhere. It’s as traveled as I am.  Across Cork County it sits in my lap while the rented Volvo steadily weaves through black and white stock. This was their road too. I think of them as my friends and if our eyes meet I keep theirs, not in competition but in effort to connect. I reach into the toolbox carrier to remember our friendship. No, no honey we need to save the battery for Uncle Seamus’s.

Ok. I roll my eyes in my head, which actually has been giving me a headache. I really should stop, giving myself a headache.  We arrive. Would’ve taken twenty minutes in America. Dad’s become glad his parents immigrated. I love everything about Ireland. I don’t pay attention to the house or adults. Seven cousins foreign to both Matthew and I stand in a misshapen line. They’re obviously excited. I am too, but I prefer to seem uninterested at risk of seeming silly. The oldest, Genevieve, reaches for Matthew and Carmel gives her hand to me. I want Genevieve’s, but I’ve learned from experience that Matthew’s toe head and bright blue eyes are hard to pass up. I’m having a hard time talking. I’m paralyzed with excitement. I’ve been a leprechaun for the past three Halloweens. This is the day I meet my Irish cousins. This is the moment.

Katherine can you get the camera from the car please? I sprint to get it. I never misbehave. Carmel is really nice. She’s pudgy, I note immediately, but it’s ok because I think it’s just a matter of time before I gain. My face looks like I’m supposed to be fuller; I must be about to grow into it.

The oldest boy, Connor, explains this game, it’s called Ball. Connor was beautiful in ten-year-old eyes, his eyes, his smile… were both glued to Matthew’s antics. Like clockwork I roll my eyes and the onset of a headache is immediate. Ow!

What? Carmel’s heard. I said I’m excited for Ball! Matthew is circling the yard with a scary fake grimace on his face. It’s classic Matthew, makes adults laugh every time. I unnecessarily check to make sure the camera’s catching it. Honey, Katherine, can you get him to do the face again? I run over, clap my hands, smile, Matthew, scary face scary face, come on Matthew. Ten seconds of fame. I cringe at the resurgence of my dormant voice, probably as shocking yet relieving as my first birthing cry. My attempt is successful and he’s at it again. I watch his reckless five-year-old body entirely ignorant of the seven pairs of attentive adult eyes, five of them foreign. I wish I hadn’t noticed them. I can’t watch one more orbit. I’m staring at the occupied audience. I don’t get it. Your kids have accents. Your kids say the craic is grand. Your kids are Irish. I lose my cool. Let’s play Ball!!!

 

Reflection: Secretly, I like to write. Whether it be about myself or not, I prefer writing from a character’s perspective because I feel you can give a lot more to a story through developing a personality. A story is more interesting with a little bias I think. Thus being assigned a narrative was kind of exciting because it’s not often you can get genuine feedback on biased/superimposed/creative nonfiction when you’re a science major. I would love to continue writing like this, as it’s a great exercise in expressing oneself quickly yet thoroughly and noticing context clues that may not have been realized until later reflection.

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