Friday, August 28, 2009

Eduardo: A Writer

As I continued my writing hour each week with Luis, I asked his fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Byron, if perhaps he would like me to teach memoir-writing to his kids. He thought it would be a good idea and I found myself facing his class.

"Here's the theme."

I wrote on the board:

When I was five...

"Think way back to when you were five years old."

I suggested they make a shopping list of ideas.

"One-word ideas or feelings of being little and then, fast — write those down. Maybe favorite toys or people. Maybe things you didn't like — tastes or chores. Quick, quick — make a list."

Many of the kids got right to it, and then there was Eduardo. He of the dark curly hair, the penetrating brown eyes that followed me as I paced, and the clear stubborn gaze of someone who wasn't doin' nothin'.

"Eduardo, can you remember when you were only five?"


"How about eight?"


Eduardo was a fellow of few words, or so I thought.

Certainly, he was immovable and I couldn't make him pick up that pencil. Nope.

Meanwhile, many in the room picked up theirs and, using their lists, formed sentences and paragraphs. Some bravely read their stories aloud. I applauded the use of adjectives. I cheered when a boy wrote of attending his first day at school, wearing a pair of overalls and looking up and up and up.

Mr. Byron, seated among his students, wrote like a man on fire and asked to share his story: an interesting tale of his child-self and a neighbor's creepy cat.

Everyone got into the act...except Eduardo.

The next day, Sydney, the fourth-grade teacher, called me over. Standing next to her was Eduardo.

"Eduardo has something he'd like to share with you, Ms. Ryane. Go on, Eduardo. This is someone who would really like to hear you."

And he began.

"One was really late and dark and like midnight or mom and me and my sister and my brother and my dad...we were all coming home from work and we were driving down the 405. I was with my dad in one car. My mom was driving in front of us with my brother and my sister...and...and...."

The tears started. Slow drips, one after another, rolled down his cheeks and fell off his jaw. We ignored them.

"And a tire came off my mom's car. That made it crash into the side and off the road and my brother he goes far...flying, like a mile away and we run and we can't find him...and people in houses are calling us to help and the police come and finally we find my brother and he is in a coma."

The tears flowed faster. I dug for a tissue without breaking eye contact with Eduardo, and he went on.

"And the doctors said he won't make it...and the priest comes...and my mom is praying and no one thinks he will make it."

"What happened to him, Eduardo?" I asked.

"He woke up after a long time. He made it. He is so strong and now he plays the piano with one hand because the other hand is still wrecked but he can play...he can make music."

"Eduardo, if I gave you your own journal, do you think you might be able to write this story down? And maybe others about your brother and your family? Or how you see things in the world? Because I will tell you something...I think you might be a writer."

He took the journal and the pencil I handed to him.

The next day he showed me, on his phone, a video of his brother playing piano.

"He wrote that song," Eduardo told me.

And for the rest of the year Eduardo shared with me pages and pages of his stories.

Dear Olivia,
my dearest to my honest, true, and lovinglet heart.
You are my only once live, thou eyes sparckel in the gleaming sunlight, thee is in my warm heart. 'Tis is thee wish my love my heart my soul my wish my light and my partener. We were destant to be together I love you and I always will!

Truly yours,
With love,
—Kate, 5th grade


  1. Mel, this is stunning. Breathtaking. Thanks so much for sharing it with the world.

  2. Thank you, Linda. I so appreciate the comment.

  3. Eduardo brought his brother to me at culmination. Both were very proud young men.

  4. I'm so pleased to know that. They deserve to be proud.


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