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Today is the final Honorable Mention entry from this year's Write a DearReader Contest. Congratulations to Deborah Hogan.
"I entered the contest last year, and knew I would enter again this year," she said. "I chose my great-grandmother as my subject, because as I get older I see her contributions to my life in new ways, through different lenses."
Deborah is a retired high school English teacher, who says, "It's a great time for me to get involved in social work, volunteer opportunities. It also allows me to do literacy tutoring, which is where I first began teaching years ago. I am a four-time cancer survivor, with a strong interest in leading a healthier and more spiritual life."
Thanks for entering the contest, Deborah...
Within the Rainbow
The dilemma of "which topic to choose" made its first appearance on a Friday afternoon in Room 102 at 2:00 p.m. at the Our Lady of Grace elementary school. We had one hour and fifteen minutes before the final bell which would set all of us free for the weekend. Sr. Mary Martin had just announced that we would be writing an in-class essay. She was exhausted from a particularly challenging week with our sixth-grade class, and even I knew at eleven years old Sister's trick of calming us all down and maintaining silence--an in-class essay.
"I want to know who makes your family special," she said with a sigh, probably thinking of the time that would be spent reading these pages of drivel, so she added for good measure, "and penmanship counts!"
I rolled my pen (now that we were in the middle grades pencils could no longer be used for anything but arithmetic as the lead would smudge) between my fingers and pondered my options. The members of my family didn't seem particularly special, but I nevertheless gave them equal consideration--my father the bakery truck driver--my mother who stayed at home--my brother who sat three classrooms away from me in fifth grade Room 105--my little brother who drove my mom crazy and needed to be aired out at the park after I got home from school each day. None of these seemed likely contenders.
Then I thought of my great-grandmother and her rainbow bread. A true winner! Certainly worthy of Sister's coveted seal of approval--the "A."
Mary Cedar--solid as a tree--my great-grandmother who would go on to live 103 years. All I knew was that she "hopped" two busses to work and then walked the mile to the drum factory--every day no matter the weather. And she always said, "I'll see you at the feather ball." That was her way of saying goodnight or goodbye. Mary Cedar--who would eventually be told by her bosses, "Are you sure you want to continue with all of this?" which was their way of saying to her at 80, "Mary, you are no longer wanted here." Mary Cedar--who could spin yarns of 1920's Chicago with its streets filled with gangsters. Mary Cedar--whose favorite shows (it was a tie) were Lawrence Welk and The Waltons. Mary Cedar--who could also tell of times before airplanes. There were so many great reasons to pick her, but I chose her for one reason only--the rainbow bread.
My great-grandmother lived above us in the apartment building, and each Friday she would stop at the Sugar Spun Bakery on her way home to make sure that she had a loaf of rainbow bread for our special Wednesday sandwiches, the one day we were allowed to bring lunch to school. She made a mean chicken salad which she tucked between two slices of that rainbow bread which made the kids "ooh" and "aah" at school as I unwrapped a sandwich which might be yellow, pink, blue or possibly purple and always in a special shape--perhaps a heart or a star. There were also sparkling sugar spun cookies. I knew these items were a feast for the eyes, and that chicken salad was a feast for any kid's palate. It was a lunch fit for a princess and I was the envy of every kid in that classroom, if only for a minute or two.
Because truth be told, though none of us half-Irish kids had a lot, we'd often been told that a pot of gold may very well lie at a rainbow's end. I knew for sure what lay for me between the two rainbow slices--the love Mary Cedar had for her first-born great-grandchild, and she indeed made my family "special"
Honorable Mention, 2016 Write a DearReader Contest
Thanks for reading with me. It's so good to read with friends.
This month's Penguin Classics book is The Charterhouse of Parma, by Stendhal. Start reading now and be sure to enter the drawing for your chance to win a Penguin tote bag.