MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults
We grow beneath a blazing and just sun, light evenly distributed across our field. Others grow in valleys where moisture pools and ridges throw shade. But we are well-preserved within our utopian garden. Each of us bears a monetary responsibility. We understand our fate.
Once upon a time in a faraway northern land, there lived a college freshman about to celebrate her first birthday away from home. Every birthday for as long as she could remember, her Dad had made her a unique birthday cake: a black poodle, or a log cabin or a shiny glazed car.
Two bouquets of dried flowers lay where they’d been tossed upon the coffee table, beside a pot of living plants. Begonias actually, stretching on skinny stems toward the southern window, where a cloudless Colorado blue sky promised leaf splitting sunlight later in the day.
- Top Story - November 2023
Protein WafflesTop Story - November 2023
1. You stand in the bathroom curling your hair and talking to your college BFF in Massachusetts. You want to look beautiful on your 32nd birthday. To get this day right despite a week of disappointment. Mom pops her head around the doorframe looking anxious. Oh god, she’s probably whipped up some healthy breakfast concoction, knowing you are out of the house the rest of the day. She is your Mom. She’s the reason you are here to celebrate this day. But 32 years is a long time to feel indebted and grateful. To play the subservient game you perfected at age eight. To watch Mom shrink your lululemon, pick fat free steak for dinner and pair it with whatever organic Pinot she’s craving. To make sarcastic comments to your daughter -her grand daughter- when she won’t eat her vitamins or blueberries. “Thirty-two could be transforming,” her former roomie says. One thing is certain; it’s a hell of a long time to live at home with Mom and Dad.
I brake. A pack of greyish brown kittens scamper across the tar and up my neighbor’s concrete drive, batting crisp leaves with extra large forepaws. Cute. I quiver. Kindof …supersized. Black marks like claw swipes fan from black triangular noses. Enchantment stills my breath. To the west lay snow peaked mountains, to the south and east, elegant, custom houses. My heart rumtums a spiritual drum. Civilized skyscrapers rise above the plains half hour northwest. My window whirrs, cool air swirls. Intelligent, golden eyes turn, latch on mine. For one stunned second, I am seen, considered, dismissed by an adolescent bobcat.
He didn’t see her. Everyone else did. Not him. He saw a meal ticket as he stood at the altar watching his white gowned bride pass candles, glowing. The scent of sterling roses floated above her beloved friends and family, soaring with the best voices in her college choir. He saw arm candy, they, carrot-topped grace, unearned love and favor. A congregation of 200 Lutherans and 51 upwardly mobile witnessed her stare into his baby blues. Heard her uncertain, “I do.” Nearly forty years and he remained willing to squander resources on pipe dreams. Had she missed his “I don’t?”
The granddaughter bowed a legato Etude with strong, smooth strokes, her liquid bob shielding emerging cheekbones. The pine scent of wafting resin made me sneeze. Two violins rejected, she was testing a third. “It needs tuning. But that’s okay.” Her wide, toothy grin exposed hope. She down bowed with a flourish. “This is it!” Joy exploded my chest like fireworks. Violin cases were exchanged, light for heavier. She clutched the heavier case to her heart. My faded blue credit card scraped the music store slot machine. My voice stuck in my throat as she whispered, “She’s meant to be mine.”
Jeannie abandoned me for Catholic school. Our twin sweats hung isolated, their Jersey softness worn thin. I shopped fifth grade supplies, adjusted my backpack and climbed the orange bus like one sliced in two. No giggling seat mate anticipated my arrival. Tears dribbled down freckled checks, dropping onto library books weighting my lap. I became Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables. A quirky orphan. My new identity, fresh as loneliness, fake as fiction spurred a reading frenzy. I read so many books, I became Westview Elementary School’s reading champion. Still, I poured chocolate malted milk powder on ice cream, alone.
I am not a fan of what is delivered inside grocery store paperbacks: mysteries, thrillers, romance. I don’t mean to be a literary snob. I am from the suburbs of Minneapolis and educated strictly Midwest. Still, I lean toward literary novels, Pulitzers, Bookers or foreign novels that expand my perspective. A habit fostered in elementary school, when books took me on far off adventures, far away from the tyranny of fifth grade drama. Warren Smith, chalking the answer to the most complicated math problem I had ever seen. Grinning his sweet, shy smile, white teeth contrasting his face, so black.