Coffee Bean Family

I’ve been looking through my high school writing lately. I’m not sure why – perhaps I’m feeling nostalgic, or perhaps my subconscious is in need of a little inspiration. Either way, I’m highly amused by what I’ve found.

I want to point out one particular piece that I wrote as a sophomore in Honors American Literature (I think that was the name of the class; regardless, I will NEVER enjoy Grapes of Wrath). We had just finished Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, and the assignment was to write a vignette in her style. I remember being stuck as to where to begin; I was never a poet and the airy, lilting style seemed difficult to mimic.

Reading it now, I am impressed with my sophomore self. I think I did an excellent job of emulating but not exactly copying Cisneros’ style. I titled it “Coffee Bean Family” and wrote about the dark, almost black hair of everyone in my immediate family. Here’s the original:

Everybody in my family has hair like coffee beans.  My brother’s is the darkest and it is soft like the fur of my puppy. My mom’s is the longest and the prettiest. My dad’s is short and slowly going away. My sister’s is the lightest shade of coffee bean and is always messy because she likes to play outside. But mine is different. Different than everybody’s. Mine is the color of a bruised banana or wood or the clock on my shelf. It is thin and straight like the leaves on a willow tree.  When I was younger it was the color of the sun. Now it’s dark like the muddy bottom of a river. But my mom says Bailey I love your hair. I wish my hair was that color. And I say Mom you are crazy. I can’t wait for summer when my hair turns the color of the sun again. My mom is one smart lady. When I was little I used to think that I was adopted because of my sun hair. But now when I look in the mirror I see my dad’s eyes and my mom’s chin and I know I am one of them. I see my nose on my little sister and my ears on my little brother and I know that they are just like me.

I don’t exactly understand the point, audience, tone, etc. of this vignette – but I don’t think that’s important to this particular style. Were I to be given this assignment now, as a sophomore in college in the Minor in Writing, I think I would write the exact same thing. True, I’ve grown up some, gained some substantial life experiences, and even evolved my writing style – but this paragraph reads true to the way I have always thought of myself. I recognize my insecurities  – and I think these younger self-doubts, though mostly evaporated, translated then in the same way that my current set of insecurities would now.

I like this sample of younger Bailey’s writing. I have come across several that I am far from proud of – namely the four research papers I wrote on the Titanic, being, as I was, lazy – but most everything has made me feel a quick surge of affection for my younger self and a desire to once again be like that person.

One thought to “Coffee Bean Family”

  1. Hey, Bailey,

    Cool excerpt!

    I think it’s interesting what you say about being so surprised by your writing style from high school since you knew so little of what you were doing. I have had similar experiences with some of my high school pieces. When I look back on work that I did, it’s funny how little I knew about dramatic structure in literature with characters having motives, objectives, and overcoming obstacles. Even though I knew very little of this, it often emerged in the work that I wrote along with structural things like turning points about which I had not been educated.

    What is both enlightening and depressing about this is how it makes one ruminate on the necessity of school to teach us such tools. I love knowing the ways to craft a work, but why didn’t I need to know before in order to make work? Are we better off as writers learning about how to write, or exploring other classes that can teach us things to write about or give us skills technical skills?

    What I like about the Sweetland Writing Minor is that it balances lessons on how to write, with lessons on how to build a platform as yourself as a writer. While writers like us maybe had a natural understanding of how to write, we surely didn’t have the technical skills to make a portfolio. Sweetland’s implementation of blending the practical (thinking about how to make writing you can market and how to market it) with the basic (how to create good writing) is definitely a start to capitalizing upon our natural talents.

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