bulletproof windows, shaped like hearts, in last night's workshop with West Philly kids

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

She had been driven, with the other fourth and fifth graders, through rain and across the slick of leaves from West Philadelphia toward an old stone building in Bryn Mawr. She sat on the floor with a wide gold band on her head and a pencil in her hand. I was asking her (the others, too) to think about home—what it is. I was asking for specifics—the sounds in the streets, the light in the house, the color of the flowers in the pot. I was reading a little Julia Alvarez, a little Sandra Cisneros, a little Jacqueline Woodson, a little Charles Blow. Tell me what you are hearing, I said. Tell me which details make these memories of homes and houses particular for you.

Many hands up. Many questions. Many details.

Then, toward the end, I asked the children to imagine their someday house—where will you live when you are ten or fifteen years older than you are today? Some wrote a sentence. Some worked with their tutors to write more. This little girl with the golden hairband wrote, on her own, an entire page and a half.

She wanted to read it aloud.

I said yes. Quieted the room.

Her home of the future would have candy walls. It would have yellow, purple, orange, red, TVs, a place for everyone she loves. It would have (this was a final detail) bulletproof windows that were shaped like hearts.

Are you going to be a writer? I asked her. Oh, yes. She said. What do you read? I asked her. Junie B., she said, and (her favorite book of all) the dictionary.

Next week maybe I'll tell her that when I was her age I dreamed of being a writer, too. That being a writer is possible. That anyone who conjures candy walls and heart-shaped bulletproof windows is a heroine of mine. Next week, when she returns, with another story.


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