Mary Beth Writes

 This was a small but telling moment in America this morning.

I volunteer at an elementary school a half hour walk from my house. I go twice each week to listen to individual 3rd graders who could use a nice grown-up listening, slowing them down, asking them what they just read, smiling at them for all the things they do right and words they pronounce correctly. We go to the school’s library, they pick where we will sit (red chairs, or blue, or yellow...) and I sit next to them on a very small chair. I ask questions, they tell me what they think they just read. I have been in fascinating conversations about George Washington, tigers, and what it’s like to eat oysters.  It’s a challenge to tell a kid what oysters look like if you prefer to not say snot.  (Older volunteers have high linguistic standards…) I said tan jelly.

This is more fun than kittens in hats.

Today, while sitting with a skinny little kid who LOVES basketball but was, I could sense, getting a little bored with the talking tree (so was I) – the fire alarm went off.

It was on the wall right over our heads and BOY was it loud.

My kid jumped up and headed straight for a back door in the library I had never noticed. Another volunteer stood up and followed his two little girls. The kids knew exactly where to go and what to do – back of the playground, stand in a line with the rest of your class. All the teachers had red “Emergency” knapsacks on their backs (are they hanging by the doors? I had never noticed them before) and were beginning to count the kids from their classes. When they had the correct amount, they held a sign that signified that. The principal was watching; this drill was accomplished in under 4 minutes.

We skedaddled back inside.

Here’s the thing. Because it had been raining this morning, I drove instead of walked. Because I had my entire purse with me, I plopped it in the back of the car and walked into the school without ID or phone.  While we were hurrying out of the building I didn’t know if this was a fire alarm or something else – would they sound the alarm if there was a shooter?  And then I freaked a little, quietly, inside myself, as I realized I didn’t even have my damn phone. 

Whatever would happen, I wouldn’t be able to document anything. If I needed to call someone, I couldn’t. 

And that was my “small but telling moment in America this morning.” 

If you are going into a school, you should take your phone.

This is nuts.

Comments

Oh wow. Gave me the shivers a little. Oh man ——- our children are living with these times. Sure wasn’t like when we grew up. Bless them all
Mary Beth's picture

Back then the NRA was an organization that promoted marksmanship and hunting skills.

Sadly, this IS the new reality that children in schools and others elsewhere face and it doesn't need to be this way. We need to wean legislatures off the NRA and repeal citizen's united so The Mighty Dollar doesn't cloud the judgement of those that should be making laws that protect us and not the gun lobby. Sensible gun legislation does not mean taking away guns from law abiding citizens - it means eliminating military style weapons that should only be in the hands of the military or law enforcement; increasing background checks on ALL gun and ammunition purchases and universal gun registration. More guns means more opportunity for guns to get into the hands of those that should not have them. There are real solutions to the "gun problem" in America if only those with the power to make real change have the courage to do so.

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Three Things / Story, Eclipse, Brando

1. I scheduled my Substack story to go out at 8AM this morning. I just looked to see why it didn’t show up and it says it is going to be sent at 8:49 tonight. I’m going to leave it like that. Maybe 9PM on a weekend night is a good time to send short fiction. Let me know if you have an opinion.

2. I read this quote by Marlon Brando who said this early in his career. “I’m not afraid of anything and I don’t love money.”

Even though this is probably not exactly true of me and you, I do love the bravado.

Peace Like a River / Book Report

4/3/2024 She Writes

I just finished reading Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and I am going to talk about it for a little bit before I forget how profoundly interesting and evocative this book was and is, at least to me.

I get emails from Boswell Bookstore (2559 N Downer Ave in Milwaukee). They host artist events pretty often and Monday evening, April 15th Len and I will be there for the Author Evening with Leif Enger. You can look up more of the details if you are interested. (Tickets are free but you need to reserve them.)

My Grandkids & 'Wandering Stars'

4/1/2024

The past month has been jam-packed. The week in Mineral Point. Len’s two-day seminar in Chicago. Last week we had various grandkids here for three overnighters and yesterday our family came to Easter dinner here in our house which was clean after a week with grandkid overnighters so you know that was a piece of cake. Len smoked two hams (yes, hard to keep them lit) and I made the largest amounts of from-scratch scalloped potatoes plus macaroni and cheese that I have ever made. As in, I grated four pounds of cheese Saturday afternoon. “On Wisconsin.”

Ghost on a Post / Poetry with Third Graders

3/12/2024

This is what I texted to Len this afternoon after I finished the poetry class with third graders. “I’m done and back. The kids were great and I’m a limp washrag, Teaching forty 8-year-olds for 90 minutes is way more energy than Everest.” I then drank half a beer (I NEVER drink in the afternoon) and fell asleep until the Mineral Point afternoon ‘change of shift siren’ shrieked for several minutes. It’s been a full day.

How 2 Write a Poem (3rd grade edition)

3/7/2024

Next week is my Writers Week at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point, WI. I won this when my story “How Crow Got Out of Jail” (Read Here) won first prize in the 2023 Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring contest for short fiction.

Winning that contest motivated me to open my Substack account. So far I’ve published 17 stories and only published once twice. (Who noticed that?)

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