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Adv Article and Essay - Assignment 1

This is due Friday. The assignment is 1000 words on "Interior or Exterior Space" -- and to be as creative as we want with that topic. I chose to be fairly literal, and write about a space that was enclosed, but exterior.

We'll workshop this in class an awful lot-- and this is just a rough draft-- but I'd appreciate opinions. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty.

Magnolia School’s Playground

On the inside, there were grown-ups with long skirts and pierced fingernails and new-age ideas, like having kids write stories and tell them that spelling didn’t matter. We’d call teachers by their first names, like Noel and Sue. Sometimes we’d sit in a circle, pass around a teddy bear, and tell our feelings. Feelings were big at Magnolia School, we’d also write them on little pieces of paper we’d call Warm Fuzzies.

The students were a myriad of misfits. Some had discipline or learning problems , some were old hippies, and others were snotty avoiders of Public School. I went there because my mother was a teacher there, and probably fell mostly into the hippie category.

We’d spend a semester on insects, and then a semester learning about Japan. We learned Spanish, we made recycled paper, and we played dress-up with clothes in a box that included silver shoes that I accidentally took home one day. But mostly, we played outside.

Indira had always taken her shoes off. When it was time for recess, we'd walk to her cubby and she'd take them out, slowly. The rumor is that we met because I tied her shoes for her. I think this is something our mothers made up, but I probably did tie her shoes for her once or twice, just because she was so slow and meticulous about it.

After her white Keds were on, we'd run outside to the place where we had freedom, and the one and only place that I've ever been popular. The playground didn't have a swing-set. There were stories that a kid had fallen off, and the grown-ups decided the swing-set wasn't safe. But it didn't matter, we had plenty to do.

The Big Kids almost always were at the turquoise playhouse before us, and we were relegated to the fort-type structure nearby. The limbs and branches made two small rooms, one for family room activities, and one for the bedroom. When playing House, there are never any mothers or babies, there are only sisters. In our case, there were sisters and a maid.

At Magnolia School, you have to share. Everyone has to be nice, and everyone has to play with each other. If you don't have anything nice to say, you aren't supposed to say anything at all. Carole was a small spindly child with buck teeth and a funny stench, and her biggest goal was to be our friend. Carole was the maid when we played house. We had to play with her, but we were careful not to talk to her. She swept the back room with loose branches while we whispered our gossip in the front. "Venice is a lesbian," Indira would say, and we'd wonder what that meant. Really, we would. I know because I wrote it in my diary.

When we'd take a break from playing House, we'd play Horse. This is how to play Horse: Stretch both your arms behind your back and clasp them. These are your reins. Your friend grasps onto your hands with both of hers. Run. Hope that your friend runs just as fast as you, and hopefully not any faster. I always got to be the horse. This was something like being queen, only better.

As long as we shared, there weren't many other rules. The back of the playground (which was really the backyard of the house-turned-school) was full of plants that were interesting and delectable. We'd pick the clovers and we'd eat them. We'd pick the purple flowers, and we'd eat those too. Just as long as we shared.

The thing we weren't allowed to share was lunches, which we ate on the deck of the house. My mother would have packed whole grains and lots of vegetables, a piece of fruit, and some cheese. I would trade my lunch under the table with my friend Kia. Well, not so much trade as that she would pass me her delicious sugary fruit snacks and I would allow her to be my friend. This was much better than trading with the kids who brought seaweed for lunch.

The only disease I remember getting back then was from sharing, but it wasn't with my friends. I had mononucleosis, and I liked to say the whole name to prove I could pronounce it. I got mononucleosis with my sister, and I wasn't allowed to go on the bars anymore. This is when Indira got better than me. We both used to do flips and backflips, but when I was gone, she mastered the pinwheel. I probably never could have done it anyway, and I'm pretty sure being sick was a great excuse.

If we were lucky, we'd get to play in the small turquoise playhouse. I'm not really sure why we wanted it so much, except that we didn't normally get to have it. We'd mostly spend our time outside, gardening around the border. We planted orange seeds that I would save from lunch, and we planted lint, to see what would happen.

In one corner of the playground, there were trees. They had orange painted lines near the top, and we weren't allowed to go past them. I'm sure we did, because we were fearless. Our legs were nimble and our hands were rough, embedded with dirty calluses and broken blisters.

There was also a pulley, which I could grasp from atop the treehouse. There was always a line, and after waiting what seemed like hours, I'd either scream "Geronimo!" or "Cowabunga, dude!" depending on my mood. Hippie entrenchment could not keep me away from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The playground was filled with other interesting things over the years, like when we kept the chicken coop and the rabbit cages. There was an open space where we'd wear tye-dyed pillow cases and learn to do African dances, like something called Funga Alafia or Fungus: A Lot Of It.

When I started third grade, my parents moved me into public school, where I had to learn things like the Pledge of Allegiance, and how to spell. Recess was fifteen minutes, and we weren’t allowed to climb trees. Eating random plants from the playground was now a federal offense, and the playground had a swing, and mean fifth graders with orange badges to keep us from doing anything wrong.

Sometimes I’ll visit Magnolia School. The playground is much smaller than it used to be when I was three feet tall, and there’s no evidence of a chicken coop. The pulley is gone, as are the neon orange marks on the trees, trees which now seem to exist purely for decoration. The turquoise playhouse is gone, and there’s a tree where it used to stand. I hope it grows oranges.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 3rd, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
The essay is pretty good. Very descriptive.

But oh my gosh. I forget what grade I was in, had to be around 3rd or 4th, but MY CLASS did Funga Alafia too! And I went to a regular old public school. I don't know if we did the dance but we sang it for some show we did.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 08:16 am (UTC)

I guess that song isn't as weird as I thought it was. Youtube claims there are tons of elementary schools singing it! Crazy.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 06:33 am (UTC)
VERY GOOD. You're becoming a very good writer. Even if you don't think so.

I went to Pre-K for about 3 months, and broke my femur, but I went back for Kindergarten-1st grade. I can still tell you what the school smelled like, and what I wore for Halloween that year. Even how I didn't know how to play kick ball except to kick the ball. Or how this girl tried to kiss me when I got on the bus, I picked my nose and wiped it on her. WHAT A MEAN LITTLE THING TO DO. HAHA

Anyways yeah, very good essay. I only wish my elementary school experience was that cool.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 06:45 am (UTC)
That was me, somehow I got logged out.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)
Well then..in response;

Fiction is what you make of it. Let the audience think the story is real.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)
Good advice, except it doesn't really help. I just have trouble telling stories with a plot.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
Honestly...I thought the above story was made up at first. Then I re-read where you "didn't change the names" and that you went literal, and was amazed that such a place REALLY exists. HAHAHA..I'm on sleeping pills and half conscious.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:04 am (UTC)
it's on Tharpe Street.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:08 am (UTC)
even if it sounds fake, it's not a "story" - it's an essay- a format used for non-fiction, and definitely not fiction.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 09:55 pm (UTC)
Gave this another 2 reads to see if there could be improvement. I honestly think that your essay is so constructively built that nothing else needs to be done.

So well in fact, you COULD build further and do a side project like put this as part of a mystery story. Find a body in the playground where the old turquoise play house was or something.

When I read it, I felt like any question I was/could ask regarding to the school and playground, you had the answer to.

You should build on your skills and become a writer. . . . . . . .
Sep. 3rd, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
I've always intended on writing on the side, and as any part of any job I'll have.

If you're interested, here a few links to a few things I've written:

Juicy Double Talk

Actions Speak Louder than Beliefs
Sep. 3rd, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Great essay:)
Sep. 4th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
As I told you before, I like it because it is interesting and you did a good job tying it together with the last line.

For improvements: I am having some difficulty with the tense changes. I think you did it for mood but I think it makes the essay a little clunkier to read, so I would keep it in one tense and take out the "you have to" parts about sharing, how to play horse, etc. I think it reads more smoothly without.

Also, this sentence took me out of the story a bit: The students were a myriad of misfits. Some had discipline or learning problems , some were old hippies, and others were snotty avoiders of Public School. I went there because my mother was a teacher there, and probably fell mostly into the hippie category.

I think the parents could be described as hippies or snotty avoiders of public school, but not the kids. And I think maybe you could think of a better descriptor than "old" for hippies because I'm not sure how old you mean Do you mean former hippies? What about "Some had discipline or learning problems, and some had parents who were (xxx) hippies or snotty avoiders of public school."
Sep. 4th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I already submitted it (and got an 'I loved it' email from my prof) but will keep this in mind for my revisions.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


Much like pineapples, I am hardcore.

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