Telling our family stories: A Walk in the Rain

grandpa-fodey-1968

My students have submitted their first assignments in my class to teach creative writing through the lens of family stories. This first piece was to write a short poem about a moment of connection they experienced with a family member.

This has been a bit of a tricky assignment for them because, one, it involves a bit of vulnerability, and, two, they’ve been having trouble picking the family member and the moment.

I always strive to do the assignments that I give to my students. So I wrote a poem about connecting with my paternal grandfather (that’s him at the top of this post). I was very close to him growing up and it’s pretty easy to think of moments when we connected. However, one moment in particular stood out for me, and that was a day my grandfather walked me to school in the rain. This stands out for several reasons. I’m not actually sure why he walked me to school—I didn’t live with or anywhere near my grandparents, so it must have been for some unusual reason that I was with him on a school morning. Also, the number one thing I think of when I remember my grandfather is his storytelling—but, on this particular morning, we shared a walk of silence.

Well, here was my attempt at my own assignment:

Shall we walk in the rain?
I will follow your lead,
The umbrella between us
But not a single word.

How many times
You have mesmerized us,
Brother and I,
Over a tattered album
With countless tales
Of the Old Country?

Distant places
I have never been,
But dream to wander,
Places of myth and legend
Where witches and gypsies
Seem to lurk
In every dark nook of every forest
Or bend of every country road.

But places of war and danger, too
Where soldiers arrive
—suddenly—
In the night
To loot and snatch
Food and sometimes people, too.
Places of hunger and woe,
Where a single loaf of bread
Cannot be bought
Even with a wheelbarrow topped with money.

But you do not tell me these things
Now
As we walk together in the rain.
Instead we savour silence
And solitude
Between two people
Who don’t always need words,
But just each other.

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