Once Upon a Memory – Take 2

Crickets chirping. Fireflies glowing. Water rushing. Birds singing. Kids’ laughter. Screams of joy. Singing silly songs. Mammaw humming nonstop.

When these sounds reach my ears, I am transported to my childhood. My sister, Jessica, and I grew up in the same house my parents still call home in Knoxville, TN. When I go home to visit, I still sleep in my childhood bedroom, the one I picked out when I was three years old (it’s a little bit of a weird feeling). We were lucky enough to be those kids who had extended family close by. My mom’s parents (mammaw and pappaw) live in Oliver Springs, a microscopic town about 35 minutes from Knoxville. Its claim to fame? Oliver Springs sits literally right next to Oak Ridge–home of the A-bomb. 

In my head, my sister and I spent the majority of our childhood at my grandparents’ or listening to a teacher drone away at school. We were out of school beginning in mid-May and didn’t return until mid-August. Not only were my grandparents in Oliver Springs, but 2/3 of my mom’s siblings and their kids lived there too. Can you say lots of cousins? As luck would have it, all the cousins are within three years of each other and all girls (save one boy). This is bound to get confusing, so check out the Cox family tree here. We absolutely loved spending time with each other and would always find reasons to be together. My sister and I spent many nights at my grandparents’ house running back and forth in the middle of the night to one set of cousins who lived right next door. On our runs, we’d always end up dodging spiders, frogs, crickets, and other things that go bump in the night.

Many of my earliest memories are from family get-togethers at my grandparents’ or cousins’ house. We always celebrate the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. Follow me for a trip down memory lane, but don’t stay too long in one place…I think the future will be far more interesting than the past.

1991
Pappaw has been admitted to the hospital for rotator cuff surgery. I remember going into his room after the surgery and talking to him. We only stayed for a few minutes and then my mom and mammaw took me out to a toy store nearby (probably Kmart?) where they bought me an amazing set of dolls! There were eight or ten of them all lined up in the box, and all characters from fairy tales. I remember Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. When we returned to the hospital to see pappaw (he had been tired and took a nap), he had me explain each and every one of them to him. Only mammaws and pappaws love and smile through all the details that four-year olds give.

Summer 1992
First trip to the beach! We had a huge house at Myrtle Beach (before it was over-commercialized). The house was so big that it fit my family of four, my grandparents, two aunts, two uncles, and four cousins. We took long walks on the beach (though they were probably less than a mile) and on the way back as the tide came in, I would grab my dad’s hand and my uncle Steve’s while they pulled me up between them so I didn’t get “washed away.” I was so scared that I would get sucked into the ocean at any moment. Daddy also bought me a mini-float, perfect for five-year-old me. I was supposed to be learning how to ride the rough waves, but instead they ended up pulling me under and taught me how to swallow ocean water. I didn’t get back in the ocean much the rest of that trip and to this day I tend to steer clear of strong currents at the beach. My sister and my cousin, Hollie, invented “droopy castles” during this beach trip. We could  never perfect sand castles like you see in the movies, so we made our own. Think of a big cone of dry sand with wet sand splattered all over it in layers. You have now envisioned a droopy castle.

Halloween, 1995
Today is my Aunt Linda’s birthday. I was lucky enough to spend the night with Hollie (her daughter) and we decided to make her a birthday present. Both of us made these really loud orange jingle bell necklaces. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but after some type of altercation with Hollie, I was in tears. During the argument, somehow the necklace I had made for Linda was ruined. That night, trick-or-treating was cut short. I wasn’t even allowed to wear a scary costume like I’d been hoping. We trekked up and down the street and then went straight to bed with no time to enjoy the candy we succeeded in nabbing.

July 4, 1996
My cousins and I liked to sing silly songs growing up. Usually we would follow a soundtrack. In 1995, we created our own singing group, “The Candy Girls.” “The Candy Girls” performed their first, and only, show for the rest of the family on the Fourth of July. The Lion King took on new meaning that July 4. Jessica and I had the soundtrack, and all of us cousins loved singing and dancing around. What else would we do except create our own version of our favorite movie? The full performance included costume changes, character changes, eating gummy worms (to which my uncle heckled as I was half-choking on it, “Got a worm stuck in your throat?”), and playing around on fake instruments (Jessica was a perfect flutist). Much to the ire of audiences everywhere, Hollie even sand the descant during “In the Jungle,” though very off key. Kudos to our family for not laughing or plugging their ears.

Easter 2000
We welcome a new member to the family. My mom’s sister, Linda, finally married Chris. They’d been dating a while, and he even joined us for a beach trip the year before. I’ll never forget that trip because I thought he was so awesome for reading Dostoyevsky. He also got onto me for calling people “weird” all the time. I rarely call people weird now. We welcomed him to the family officially at my uncle Steve’s house. Chris and Linda said their vows on the front porch, with the reception was catered by my mother (who swore she was never hollowing out a pineapple or watermelon again, and to this day she hasn’t). Several years after their marriage, he adopted my cousin, Adam, loved on his sister, Hollie (who was over 18), and supported Linda in her crazy venture to open her own hair salon.

May 2011
Adam, the youngest of mammaw and pappaw’s grandkids, my only male cousin on my mom’s side, is deployed to Afghanistan. Chris wrote a Knoxville News Sentinel community column a few years earlier about his pride in knowing his son enlisted with the Army Reserves. Adam returned safe and sound on U.S. soil in May 2012, and married his high school sweetheart shortly thereafter.

In high school, when I would try to explain it to my friends, I always said, “Downtown Oliver Springs is so small if you blink you’ll miss it!” While the town itself may be tiny, the people in it are some of the most important people of my life. I learned the value of family and the love of cousins, aunts and uncles. I learned to embrace nature, even when you’re scared of it. They taught me that settling arguments with words always has a better outcome than hitting/punching/pinching/biting (that doesn’t mean I didn’t try it sometimes). Holidays are meant to be spent with family, in whatever form you can find it. Celebrating Christmas with loved ones makes my heart happy. I can’t imagine growing up outside of that bubble. I know 100% that I wouldn’t be the same person. I imagine I wouldn’t love holidays so much, I’d be more inclined to blow up at the smallest things, and I wouldn’t have so many happy memories to fall back on when times get tough.

Below are all the major players from this reminiscing (photos Christmas 2006).

Back: Steve, Pappaw, Stanley
Front: Mammaw, Mom (Vicki), Linda

Steve, Stanley, Vicki, Linda

Samantha, Steve, Marie, Melissa

Jessica, Dad, Mom, Me

Chris, Linda, Adam, Matthew (Hollie’s son), Hollie

_________________________________________________________________
Target audience: Families; maybe something in a family services brochure, adoption agency, etc. This story is for people who may not understand the significant part that extended family can play in a child’s life.

Abstract: This short story tells the positive effects that extended family can have on young children through calling out meaningful experiences in a girl’s memories.

Key words/tags: family, holidays, memories, nostalgia, cousins, sisters, Knoxvillle, TN, Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, grandparents, aunts, uncles, stories

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A Critique

For this week’s assignment, I’m in charge of providing a critique for a classmate’s writing. Check out her awesome blog here. My comments are in this beautiful shade of purple/blue.

All Good Things Come to an End…

1988

I became a citizen of Kinston, North Carolina on August 14, 1988. It was a nice summer day not reaching above 88 degrees. There were reports of summer rain with light winds. That same year, Kinston won the All-American city award. This award is given to communities, neighborhoods, town, villages, etc. whose citizens work together to improve their community and achieve outstanding results. This seems like a very promising place to live based on historical facts. It is funny how things can change with a blink of an eye. I love this opening paragraph. I feel like I have been transported to Kinston. I would try to stick with one verb tense (or mood) for the paragraph, since you seem to be telling a story and inviting the reader in. You begin in past tense, but at the end of the paragraph you write, “This seems like…” which confused me initially. I had to reread it to determine if we were supposed to be in the present time or in the past.

1993-1999

I remember my life back to the age of 5. I grew up in an area of Kinston called Lincoln City on University Street. This was predominately a black neighborhood with schools, businesses and a few local parks. I say was because it is no longer there. There was a mixture of houses and trailers along my street. Our trailer was number 808. It was white with black shutters. We had a large yard with a big ugly dogwood on the left side of the house that blocked the crazy old ladies (plural possessive should be “ladies'”, but I think you meant one lady, as the next sentence indicates, so lady’s would fit better) view that stayed right beside us. I cannot remember her name, so crazy old lady will have to suffice. She would always fuss at the neighborhood kids that walked by her house. She did not like us walking on her grass or her part of the sidewalk. We always tried to walk on the other side of the street or just ignored her all together. We had a strip of marble in the middle of our front yard that we used for hop scotch, four square or jumping ropes. If you have never heard of or played any of those games; just know they were a lot of fun. I get the feeling that the crazy old lady made you feel a little bit like the kids from To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s what it made me think of. Everyone has some kind of story from their childhood or something that we can all find in common (I think most schools require reading To Kill a Mockingbird?), maybe try to pull some of that in. This could also be a good place to strategically use bold or italics. Since this is a story, I think that it can show some personality. 

Mr. Whites snack shop and mini grocery store was right across the street from our house. He had a small garden beside his shop where he grew squash, collards, corn, cabbage, eggplant, rutabagas, potatoes, and pumpkins. This is quite the list! I got a little bit lost reading through all the vegetables. Is there anyway to phrase it so that you don’t list them all out? Maybe “He had a small garden beside his shop where he grew a cornucopia of vegetables, depending on the season.” Cornucopia may not be the right word, but something that gives the reader the image of tons of vegetables. would always let the neighborhood children help him pick corn and would give us all the free corn we could fit in our arms to take home. It was a great place to grow up.

All the adults in our neighborhood had stable jobs. Kinston was a place of industry at the time. Our city is rural, so most jobs were in manufacturing in textiles or cropping. Lincoln city was not a rich neighborhood by any means, but the entire neighborhood worked together and leaned on one another. Just another quick note about the tense. You jump from past to present to past. If you’re sending the reader back in time, keep them there with past tense.

The streets of Lincoln City were filled with children of all ages laughing and playing. Everyone’s parents knew each other and would not hesitate to act in their place if they caught you out of line. This brings a great image to my mind! Even though you don’t use overly descriptive language, my brain just created a picture of a small town life with kids playing in the street and parents just looking out for kids in general. I like that image.

The entire neighborhood was walk able (one word). There was never a stranger. Every year around Memorial Day, the local business owners and adults of Lincoln City would get together and host a gathering for the entire neighborhood with food, games, a basketball tournament and music. It was a great feeling getting together with the entire community. It seemed like it would last forever. However as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And so it did. Again, I love the imagery. I would love some more description here. What kind of games did you play? Did you go with your friends? Did anything exciting happen one year?

September 1999, hurricane Floyd swept through Kinston flooding my entire neighborhood. Everyone I grew up with was now being forced to leave the only place they ever knew. What would happen to us? Where would we go? For the children, would it mean having to change schools and meeting new friends?

Once it was all said and done, my entire neighborhood was condemned. It is still condemned to this day. Whoa! That felt like you just dropped a bomb on me! How did you guys evacuate? Did you take things with you? Did you lose all your childhood toys and memories? What about photo albums and home videos? I’d love to hear more about this, developed a little more. For such a big part of your early life, it just barely gets a few sentences.

At 11, my whole world was turned upside down. It seemed to only go downhill from there.

2000-2006

While I struggled to find my new identity in my new neighborhood with new neighbors, I felt out of place. I felt that no one wanted to get to know me where my family lived now. Everyone was separated. My friends were all scattered. The only thing that remained the same was that we all still attended the same school so at least I could see them there.

The economy in Kinston started to take a hit after the flood as well. Many companies were on their way out. One of Kinston’s major employers, DuPont, started to lay off workers around 2000 and 2001. In 2003, West Pharmaceutical experienced a major explosion killing some workers and injuring others including firefighters. This plant was also a major employer of our city and was now being shut down. Some workers were offered temporary relocation but had to leave their families behind. Others were just out of work.

Everything that was once so familiar was now becoming so different. I was in high school by the time Kinston’s economy hit rock bottom. Now faced with the harsh realities of life, I became who I am today. I knew that there was not much in Kinston for me. There was no job growth and nothing familiar. I could not go back to where I grew up, so I was forced to move on. I worked hard in school and took all honors classes where I could. I participated in sports and volunteered to make sure my resume would look good when it came time for me to apply for college. Once the time came for me to leave for college, I was completely ready to go with no hopes of looking back. This is heartbreaking. I can feel your sorrow at knowing that you were going to have to leave what you considered your home. What about your friends? Did they all leave Kinston as well? What kind of things did you learn from all of that? 

2007-Today

There is not much left for me in my hometown. All I have are memories of my childhood. The rest is behind those condemned signs on my street. In recent years, some former citizens of Lincoln City have organized a reunion for those washed out by hurricane Floyd. West Pharmaceutical has now re-built and is hoping to expand. DuPont has also started to see slow growth. In 2008, Smithfield Packing Co., a large pork manufacturing company closed its plant in Kinston, but is now hoping to come back and expand providing more jobs to the local economy. Kinston also won the All-American City award again in 2009. A couple of these sentences feel a little forced and out of order. I think you’re trying to describe both the companies and what they are doing. Maybe try breaking it down a little more. Expand the paragraph a little, you have room! Also, you’ve told me that Kinston won the All-American City award again three years ago, but it seems like either that’s an undeserved award, or the city has come back more than you alluded to.

As for me, I still see Kinston as being stuck in 1999. Having everything taken away so soon gave me the sense to embrace life and try new things. Who knows what I would be like if everything had stayed the same. I probably would be still in Kinston with my same friends working a manufacturing job not wanting more. Going through loss has made me strive for more in all aspects of life; education, living conditions, career and family. Now that I think about it, I never really lost my identity. I just gained a new perspective.

I really like how you ended this story. The entire time we’re just sitting here thinking that you lost everything, had to reinvent yourself and become a new person, but you don’t let us think that for long! You also end the story with a pretty thought-provoking sentence. Even though I haven’t been in many situations where I feel like I may have lost a part of my identity, I’m now going back through memories to check out my perspective and how it may have changed. I really enjoyed reading this story, and I think you did a great job of talking about how these experiences shaped you. There were some grammatical problems that interfered slightly with the flow of the story, but overall it was a pleasure to read. I would like to see some expansions on some of your allusions!

Target Audience: This piece is for anyone who has ever felt lost or out-of-place in society. I hope this helps you find your way. This piece may be featured in a travel magazine or self-help publication.

Abstract: It seems as though Kinston, NC has come full circle. The city has experienced some pitfalls but is now on its way to a full recovery.

Keywords: Kinston, North Carolina, Lincoln City, All-American City, University Street

Once Upon a Memory

Crickets. Fireflies. Rushing water. Birds. Laughter. Screaming. Singing. Crying. Humming.

When these sounds reach my ears, I am transported to my childhood. My sister, Jessica, and I grew up in the same house my parents still call home in Knoxville, TN. When I go home to visit, I still sleep in my childhood bedroom, the one I picked out when I was three years old (it’s a little bit of a weird feeling). We were lucky enough to be those kids who had extended family close by. My mom’s parents (mammaw and pappaw) live in Oliver Springs, a microscopic town in Tennessee. Its claim to fame? Oliver Springs sits literally right next to Oak Ridge–home of the A-bomb. 

In my head, my sister and I spent the majority of our childhood at my grandparents’ or listening to a teacher drone away at school. Not only were my grandparents in Oliver Springs, but 2/3 of my mom’s siblings lived there too–can you say lots of cousins? As luck would have it, we were all within three years of each other and all girls (save one boy). My sister and I spent many nights at my grandparents’ house running back and forth in the middle of the night to one set of cousins who lived right next door–dodging spiders, frogs, crickets, and other things that go bump in the night.

Many of my earliest memories are from family get-togethers at my grandparents’ or cousins’ house. We always celebrate the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together. Follow me for a trip down memory lane, but don’t stay too long in one place…I think the future will be far more interesting than the past.

1991
Pappaw has been admitted to the hospital for rotator cuff surgery. I remember going into his room after the surgery and talking to him. I think he was diagnosed with diabetes around the same time, so there were lots of doctor visits and physical therapy and everything that goes along with surgery like that. My mom and mammaw took me out to a toy store nearby (probably Kmart?) where they gifted me with an amazing set of dolls! There were eight or ten of them all lined up in the box, and all characters from fairy tales. I remember Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood. When we went back to the hospital to see pappaw again, he had me explain each and every one of them to him. Only mammaws and pappaws love and smile through all the details that four-year olds give.

Summer 1992
First trip to the beach! We had a huge house at Myrtle Beach (before it was over-commercialized). The house was so big that it fit my family of four, my grandparents, two aunts, two uncles, and four cousins. We took long walks on the beach (though they were probably less than a mile) and on the way back as the tide came in, I would grab my dad’s hand and my uncle Steve’s while they pulled me up between them so I didn’t get “washed away.” I was so scared that I would get sucked into the ocean at any moment. Daddy also bought me a mini-float, perfect for five-year old me. I was supposed to be learning how to ride the raucous waves, but instead they ended up pulling me under and taught me how to swallow ocean water. I didn’t get back in the ocean much the rest of that trip. My sister and my cousin, Hollie, invented “droopy castles” during this beach trip. We could  never perfect sand castles like you see in the movies, so we made our own. Think of a big cone of dry sand with wet sand splattered all over it in layers. You have now envisioned a droopy castle.

Halloween, 1995
Aunt Linda was born on Halloween. I was lucky enough to spend the night with Hollie and we decided to make her a birthday present. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I was in tears, my present for Linda was ruined. I think Hollie may have had something to do with it and we all went to bed early. Trick-or-treating was cut short. I wasn’t even allowed to wear a scary costume like I’d been hoping. We trekked up and down the street and then went straight to bed with no time to enjoy the candy we succeeded in nabbing.

July 4, 1996
“The Candy Girls” perform their first, and only, show for the rest of the family. The Lion King took on new meaning that July 4. Jessica and I had the soundtrack, and all of us cousins loved singing and dancing around. What else would we do except create our own version of our favorite movie? The full performance included costume changes, character changes, eating gummy worms (to which my uncle heckled as I was half-choking on it, “Got a worm stuck in your throat?”), playing around on fake instruments (Jessica was a perfect flutist, and Hollie sang the descant during “In the Jungle,” though very off key. Kudos to our family for not laughing or plugging their ears), and the inevitable dramatics that we came up with.

Easter 2000
We welcome a new member to the family. My mom’s sister, Linda, finally married Chris. They’d been dating a while, and he even joined us for a beach trip the year before. I’ll never forget that trip because I thought he was so awesome for reading Dostoyevsky. He also got onto me for calling people “weird” all the time. I rarely call people weird now. We welcomed him to the family officially at my aunt and uncle’s house (her brother and his wife). They said their vows on the front porch. The reception was catered by my mother (who swore she was never hollowing out a pineapple or watermelon again, and to this day she hasn’t). He has since adopted my cousin, Adam, loved on his sister, Hollie, and supported Linda in her crazy venture to open her own hair salon.

May 2011
Adam, the youngest of mammaw and pappaw’s grandkids, my only male cousin on my mom’s side, is deployed to Afghanistan. Chris wrote a Knoxville News Sentinel community column a few years earlier about his pride in knowing his son enlisted with the Army Reserves. Adam arrived safe and sound on US soil in May 2012.

In high school, when I would try to explain it to my friends, I always said, “Downtown Oliver Springs is so small if you blink you’ll miss it!” While the town itself may be tiny, the people in it are some of the most important people of my life. I learned the value of family and the love of cousins, aunts and uncles. I learned to embrace nature, even when you’re scared of it. They taught me that settling arguments with words always has a better outcome than hitting/punching/pinching/biting (that doesn’t mean I didn’t try it sometimes). Holidays are meant to be spent with family, in whatever form you can find it. Celebrating Christmas with loved ones makes my heart happy. I can’t imagine growing up outside of that bubble. I know 100% that I wouldn’t be the same person. I imagine I wouldn’t love holidays so much, I’d be more inclined to blow up at the smallest things, and I wouldn’t have so many happy memories to fall back on when times get tough.

_________________________________________________________________
Target audience: Families; maybe something in a family services brochure, adoption agency, etc. This story is for people who may not understand the significant part that extended family can play in a child’s life.

Abstract: This short story tells the positive effects that extended family can have on young children through calling out meaningful experiences in a girl’s memories.

Key words/tags: family, holidays, memories, nostalgia, cousins, sisters, Knoxvillle, TN, Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, grandparents, aunts, uncles, stories

to each his own

Tags

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The truth is stranger than fiction, but where do you draw the line?
You said the devil made you do it, but don’t push your luck.
There’s one in every crowd, and she could test the patience of Job.
Your eyes are windows to the soul, but ignorance is bliss.

Some say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,
and for everything there is a season;
but I think a faint heart never a true love knows,
Love may conquer all, but love is also blind,
I’m going to just pull the wool over my eyes, and say:
A good beginning makes a good ending

Get to know me!

I’m currently a second year MA student at UNC living in Chapel Hill, NC. My concentration is strategic communications, with a specific focus in digital/online/social. I have my BS in Advertising from UT-Knoxville. I love all things digital.

Nice to have a face with a name, no?