These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

migrant summer school

friday afternoon i got to experience what dawn experiences every weekday: migrant summer school.

while i'd been there when i wrote a story about the program, this was different. i went to talk to the students about careers, my career. i felt honored that the teacher, mrs. irizarry would consider me.

i went in nervous; while i am used to writing stories on deadline or interviewing a complete stranger, talking in front of a group of students is a bit scary, even if they are fourth-graders.

i must say that the experience left me feeling great. i talked to them about where i came from, my schooling, my eye sight and what i do at my job. we even did a mock interview that involved dawn pretending she'd won tickets to see los tigres del norte (the kids loved that).

the students interacted, asked questions and participated in a mock story that dawn concocted. it was full of errors and the students had to figure out where they were. each student spoke up and pointed them out. one girl, who really impressed me, arlette, even said that the second sentence is the "grabber" and should be the first one. dawn wondered if any student would pick that error out. it made me smile.

i took the kids newspapers and reporters tablets i had lying around the house. that caused them to ooh and ahh. that made me feel good, too. then they asked me to autograph them. dawn warned me that they'd do that. at first i was taken aback, then she said they'd like it, so i obliged. what a thrill they got.

afterwards i watched them play soccer, where this kid, misa, scored four goals. he was great.

what an experience. i give a lot of kudos to the teachers and assistants who teach the kids. they're doing a great job; the kids are intelligent and not afraid to talk and ask questions. i hope they remain always this inquisitive.

i had preconceived notions, i'll admit. i expected shy students, head down, mumbling words. how surprised and thrilled i was to get the opposite.

the students want to learn. you can see their minds turning as they think things out.

it makes my heart sink to think that maybe some of the kids in the program, even some in the class i went into, will, after high school (or before if they don't complete school) slip into the migrant lifestyle.

there is so much potential for them. so many programs waiting for them to get them through high school and onto higher education. i hope they, students, and parents, push to remove themselves from the migrant life.

there is nothing wrong with hard work; it bulds character. but, when there is a chance to go beyond where your parents went, people should do it. i think most parents would be proud to point out mijo or mija in a crowded auditorium in a university graduation and say, "que orgulloso estoy de el/la. que gran dia es hoy."

those are the words i'd like to hear from, juan, andres, arlette, marlynn, lucero, misa and denisse's parents 12 years from now. that would make me very happy and make friday's visit complete.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

the fourth

we've spent four fourt of julys in michigan. last night we attended our third fourth celebration at kollen park (last year dawn was freshly out of the hospital). we went with the babbitts.

the babbitts came over early and we had dinner prepared in our newly acquired gas grill.

as we chatted, we noticed the trickling of people going by. it was early. the fireworks wouldn't start until dusk. so we left earlier than i'd anticipated and joined the throngs of folks out at the park.

we looked around and founda good spot off to the right of the main open area at the park to the left of the playground. with the exception of a large tree directly in front of us, we had a gret view of the fireworks display, since most of the people were sitting to our left. the past few times, we'd sat farther west and had pretty good views of the display.

after chatting, watching people and checking out a really cool star in the sky, the lights dimmed by the waterfront and shortly after a choir began to sing a version of the star-spangled banner. then they sang the version i know. and the fireworks commenced.

and immediately there was a problem. the display was going off in front of us but it was blocked completely by the large tree. we weren't the only ones caught off guard. people scrambled to get a better view of the fireworks. there seemed to be confusion, murmurs and then movements. i think people were wondering why the fireworks were so far off to the right when there was plenty of open space to the left in front of the park.

we got up and made our way off to the right, almost out of kollen park. we had to cross the street leading into the park and placed our blankets in an area where we were able to see them.

and they were beautiful, with shooting colors of red, green, blue, yellow off into the sky. with my new glasses, i was able to see the tinies of sparkly pieces as they fell away and disappeared. the choir ekpt singing in the bakground.

but in my mind i kept wondering why the fireworks were so far off to the right. i mean, a majority of the park was to the left. waaaay to the left. it seemed wrong.

then i noticed some bright lights on to our right where a certain new restaurant is located. i know the restaurant rented out small pieces of the deck to people to see the fireworks display.

i got to wondering if maybe the display was moved more to the right to accommodate those who paid to sit on the deck. however, if this is so, i think it's wrong. there were far more people sitting on the park lawn waiting to see the firworks than on the deck of the restaurant.

i don't know if it was on purpose of what, but if the display was moved to the right to cater to those on the deck it was wrong. the display is for the public who waiting more than an hour and a half to get started. the dispay should have been more centrally located so if you're sitting to the right of the bandshell on the lawn, you would be almost on top of it.

i don't know what went wrong, but the display was off center.

still, we enjoyed ourselves and had a good third year attending the fireworks display. (our first year we went with my folks while they were up here, the second year it was with peg, who'd just moved here a few months before.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

a friend leaving

woke up early, headed to 19th St., an early morning trip with my iPod for entertainment.
her pleasant greeting and wave, something i'd miss.
sprawled out on the drive, her life from the past few years;
there were books, furniture, cups, glasses, chairs and knickknacks.

the sun shone through the heavy tree, i sat, verner's in hand, took over the show, she had things to do.

jeremy, how goes it, you come striding in, looking, buying.
andrea in time, too, joins the fray, she remains, the day's presence.

people stopped, took pieces of your life, money in exchange,
the simple way to make your life, start again, not a bad thing.

jim and sam toil for molly, her things must not go and to
sterling heights will they end up.

within, disarray. piles here, piles there,
a sadness, but not by her, through me.

there, see the spot? i stand on it,
the dining room, table gone, yet it's where i sat, with dawn,
eating pepperoni for the first, feeling our way, becoming friends.

and there, to the left, once more i sat, dawn beside me,
across the young ones, our first glimpse of sam. sharing family.

beyond, the darkened living room, still more memories abound.
one night, a saturday, perhaps a year and a half or more off,
we all sat, the clock ticked and ticked. 3 a.m. reared itself.
what fun, what fun.

and walking aimlessly, lucky and thurber, your faithful ones,
what wild pets once they were, now docile, petting is all they want,
lucky white around the mouth and thurber still worry on his brow.

again i return, lounging on your couch, taking in your life as it unfolds
and leaves in bits and pieces around me.

and again, later, still, we go back, a darkened house, pets inside,
barking gently.

and after a run to ben&jerry's, it's back for one last hurrah
through the rooms that was your life,
see the room at the end, so bare now, yet full of
you, books, laptop, blanket, mother's bathrobe,
dogs quiet on the floor.

as we leave, i look back, once more thinking, reliving,
smiling, into the car before too much emotion overtakes,
memories are strong, powerful beasts that will do more than nip at the heels.

off to the cape! off you go. only seven hours south, yet a lifetime
it seems. i miss my friend and a hollow place remains where once she
roamed carefree.

i hope life treats you well, peg. peace, my friend.