This is me in 8th grade. I didn't wear a bike helmet because I figured my shield of Aqua Net hairspray would do the job. Not that I did much bike riding back then, or that anyone cared about bike helmets.
In language arts, he's typing a five paragraph essay in the computer lab. It's not his best work. I want to tell him to start with a hook instead of the predictable "My essay is about my favorite season." I almost say, "Is that the best you can do? What, are you twelve?" And then I realize that he kind of is twelve, having just turned thirteen a few months ago.
When I think about it, I realize that this is how I started essays in school. "My essay is about what I did over summer vacation" and the like. But now I want to try again. Also, I'm tired of watching my son clack away at his essay. So I will write my life story in the five paragraph form.
by Susan Hayward
This essay is about my life story. My life can be divided into three parts. My birth, my elementary years, and my kids.
My life story begins in a hospital in a small Colorado town. I guess my life started before then, but when I was born all I knew was that for almost a year I had relaxed in a jacuzzi of semiotic fluid and then my mother kicked me out. This pattern of relaxing into a routine and then getting evicted from said routine would be a recurring theme for the rest of my life.
Next, I went to school. In kindergarten my favorite toy was a steering wheel attached to a wooden box, which I would "drive" to imaginary destinations, like KMart and TG&Y, two of my favorite stores. (Many years later, those kindergarten driving lessons would prove totally useless when I would smash my mother's car into a tree.) My teacher made us take naps on green mats every day, though I don't recall ever actually falling asleep. (Had I known the sleep deprivation that comes with babies, I would have stocked up on it when I was younger.) In second grade, I played kissing tag at recess with a boy I had a crush on. One day I finally caught him. I can still see him now, standing by the big tractor tire embedded in the playground sand, a grin on his face. So I kicked him in the Privates. It seemed the thing to do.
After surviving public school (but just barely) I went to a private college, where I met the man who would become my husband. We did not like each other at first, which is always a sure sign of attraction in Jane Austen novels. So I should have known we'd end up getting married. For my wedding dinner I ate a subway sandwich in the parking lot of the reception center. I was worried about two things: getting intestinal gas and getting naked. Fifteen years later, not much has changed.
I got pregnant three times and had three babies, all boys. By the last sonogram, I was not surprised to see a one-eyed snake on the screen. "It's a boy," the technician announced. As if I didn't know. But even though I thought I'd have a girl in there somewhere, I like these dudes my husband and I grew from seed. They make us laugh. They make us cry, too, but not as much as they make us laugh. They make us see things from a different perspective as well, like the time I was frying bacon and one of the kids said, "That sounds like a hundred people kissing." And they make us understand what it means to love someone so much, you'd spend the entire day in junior high with them. Plus, they often do dishes and clean the toilets. And that is what makes me love them most of all.
So anyway, that's my life story. Up until now, that is. I know this makes six paragraphs, but if there's one thing I've learned since junior high it's this: some things just don't matter in the end. Or in the middle either. Algebra, for example, doesn't matter in the least. Guess jeans and Swatch watches just don't matter, even if they seemed vital to my popularity in junior high. It's taken me thirty-eight years, but I think I've finally figured out what is important: people--the people you are born to, the ones you live with, the people you marry, and the people you parent. In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, it's not the movie stars who have the most influence on how you turn out. It's the mom who tucked you in every night, the sisters who attend your impromptu pity parties, the big brother you've always looked up to (literally and figuratively), the husband who endures four nights of turkey leftovers and never complains, and the kids who give your days a shape and a rhythm that sometimes drive you mad, and sometimes--more often than not--make you glad. You just can't squish that into five paragraphs. And you really shouldn't have to. At least not when you're a grown up.