Life & Writing: Memoirs and Butter
Writing Prompts Lead to Writing Lessons
Six years ago The Red Dress Club had a memoir prompt where we were asked to share our earliest school memory. I have often thought about writing a memoir but I find it incredibly intimidating due to the content of my life to date. There are many stories I wasn’t comfortable sharing for a long time. Some stories I may never be comfortable sharing. Others are stories I desperately want to share but don’t to protect others who play a role in them. And everything in between? Probably boring.
At the most, I delve into memoir poetry writing and feel most comfortable using metaphors and passive aggressive wordplay. I plan on releasing a poetry collection one day and have toyed with titles like, “Flutter,” and “Eyes Cast Down.” Both titles hold significant meaning to me.
I reflected on what my life stories may look like and I read some of the other submissions. Then I thought of butter. I realized there are sweet memories tucked here and there that would provide a chuckle or tear. I may never write an Amanda expose but I can share some bits. Not those bits, stay with me here guys.
Where were we? Oh right, butter. So, in response to that long ago prompt, I shared a childhood memory.
The Student Becomes the Teacher
My arms were overflowing with supplies as I sauntered through the airy classroom and gathered the children; beckoning them with my sing-song voice. The wide windows let bright Florida sunshine spill into the rainbow-colored room and Mr. Al’s “Tooty-Ta” bubbled from a small radio on a countertop.
“Everyone it’s circle time, circle time, circle time. Everyone it’s circle time, let’s all sit down!” I skip and hop through the room with glass jars and cold cardboard cartons pressed securely against my chest.
While I set up our supplies, the children pressed in around me and anxiously awaited my instructions. The small baby food jars clinked gently as I placed them in front of me. A carton of heavy whipping cream nearly tipped over, but it is rescued by sticky little fingers.
“Oof, I dot it, Miss Manda,” my pint-sized hero announced proudly. I smile and his grin widens.
“Today we are going make butter!”
The children ‘ooh’ and ‘aahh’ as I began to siphon the thick liquid into the jars.
“Now, I’m going to pass these jars around. We’re going to shake them as hard as we can while we sing our ABC’s. Then we will pass it to a friend. Ready?” Fifteen eager little heads nodded furiously.
As the children shook those jars with all their might, I was suddenly transported back nearly 20 years.
The Scents and Sounds of Nostalgia
My kindergarten teacher captivated me with her lilting, crystal-like voice. I followed her to a colorful carpet in the front of kindergarten class where many of the other children were already seated.
The past and the present meld together the happy chatter of children and the lingering scent of grape juice.
She tells us we will be making butter and begins to pass around small jars with a white liquid sloshing around inside. We sang our ABC’s loudly and shook those smooth, cool jars until our tiny arms were tired.
She then surprised us by pulling out a sleeve of crackers and passed us each one topped with a dollop of our freshly prepared butter. I sighed as the heavenly bit of fluff melted in my mouth.
It’s at the moment I realized I forgot the crackers. I send my assistant off to fetch them and continued to sing with the children.
Later that day I hopped off the bus and darted eagerly to my babysitter’s little apartment. The air was heavy with the scent of my afternoon snack, cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven. Nonny swatted my hand gently away from the hot pan, her blue eyes sparkled with laughter, and she asked about my day.
Remembering the butter I rifled through the cabinets until I found an old mason jar. I promptly filled the jar halfway with milk, replaced the lid and screwed it tightly. As I shook the jar I recounted the day’s activity to Nonny, as she smiled and nodded at my excitement.
Once my arms were sufficiently achy I made a big show of opening the jar and….Nothing.
It was still half a jar of milk.
I was so incredibly disappointed; because I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. so, I placed the jar in the fridge where I proceeded to shake and check the contents every day for a week.
As I returned my focus to the antsy four-year-olds around me, whose arms were then tired and achy from shaking all those jars of heavy whipping cream, it clicked into place. Silly 5-year-old me had never heard of whipping cream! The white liquid would naturally be milk. Oops.
I passed them crackers with a dollop of fresh butter and made a mental note to write the activities directions on their daily reports so they could repeat the activity at home with their families.
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Until next time, scribe happy and stay sassy!