Monday, November 19, 2007

My Refound Love

When I was a child in the early years of grade school, I was quickly labeled as a "slow learner." In fact, my kindergarten teacher wanted to hold me back a year, but my mother refused. I remember seeing her face as she emphatically told Mrs. Johnson, "She is ready. We are not holding her back."

I didn't quite understand what was going on, and actually thought it would be lovely to stay in Mrs. Johnson's room. She was a very kind, nurturing teacher who had a "grandmother-like" quality to her. I loved getting hugs from her. In any case, I made the move into first grade at the age of 5. Yes, I was young. My birthday was actually five weeks before the December 1st cut off date though. Still, I started first grade as a 5 year old, and yes, I had peers who were up to 1 1/2 years older than me.

As I reflect on that using my adult perspective, I think that I should have been held back. Essentially, I was immediately put at an age disadvantage in first grade. I often wonder if I had stayed another year in "warm and fuzzy" kindergarten, would I have received the "slow learner" designation? I'll never know, but what I do know is that my early start to learning helped shaped some of my misguided notion that I'm not intelligent.

Reading and writing came very (is there a way to stretch that word out?) slowly for me. In third grade, I finally got it. Before then, I remember taking my dad's paper back novels and reading the word "the" over and over again because it was a word that I could read. It made me feel good to know I could read it, and often times, I underlined the word "the" over and over again in Dad's novels.

In any case, I was often a child who was in her own world. It took me several years to understand that I was a "slow learner." Fortunately for me, my kindergarten teacher had recommended a private school which had specialized education. Upon enrolling in Saint Bernard's school, I was given an individually guided education plan. This plan allowed me to learn at my own pace in my own time. I thrived in that until the school dropped the format. Then, and only then, did I realize that I was dumb, stupid, slow, or whatever pigeon-hole in which my classmates placed me.

It was a harsh realization. Thank God I received a teacher in the seventh grade who saw something in me. Miss Reeseman noticed that I could "express myself." I was confused by what that meant, and often times, I was lost when she would force me to designate a piece of writing as literal or interpretive and then prove my hypothesis. I struggled and struggled with it, but she kept pushing and pushing and pushing me. "I know you can do this, Jenny. You can express yourself." She even made me enter a local writing competition, and low and behold, I won. The Daughters of the American Revolution loved my essay on the Statue of Liberty. My Grandpa 'Mood was so proud that I won too. "Darlin' did you know that you could be a member of the DAR?"

Miss Reeseman discovered my writing abilities, and as I grew up in high school, I began to take more and more writing classes. Grammar became my friend. Well, sort of.

I earned a specialized degree in journalism in college, and then promptly started writing my heart out as a professional technical writer for a financial services company. Somewhere in leaving college and beginning my work life, I lost creative writing. I don't know why. I guess it was all those exciting user manuals and online help I was writing. LOL

Then in 2004, my daughter Meghan was born 13 weeks too soon. I began my first web journal to document the comings and goings of Meghan's life in NICU. I painstakingly began to document what was happening to her because it was all that I could do while others saved her life. In those early "blogging" days, I began to let little bits and pieces of me come out in those posts. It was a freeing experience. Writing was cathartic.

Soon, I decided to create a different Caringbridge page where I would write about the girls' journey with Alpha-1. That too brought out more and more of my own observations while documenting the achievements and milestones of Grace and Meghan. Eventually, I started this blog, and now I feel very much at home here in my little corner of cyberspace.

This weekend, someone asked me why I blog. "You write all that stuff for strangers." My first thought was that this person should read my blog to understand. My answer was this:

I blog to be creative, to feel a part of a larger world, to make myself feel better. Writing is a part of me. I cannot separate it from myself. It is an integral part of me and my self-esteem.

Thanks Miss Reeseman. I'll never forget the gigantic impact you made on my life even though I did forget your first name.


~Denise~ said...

I know myself and others have commented on how articulate you are and so expressive with your writing. It's true. I love your style and use of the written word.

childlife said...

I LOVE the sentence you wrote about why you blog... That was beautifully phrased!

One of the lovely things about blogging is that the strangers that read your words often become your friends. I think you have a lovely soul Jen and your words do not read like the words of a stranger to me.

I hope your family has a lovely Thanksgiving!