Candy Man by Ms. Browne

     When my father was 83 he moved from Long Island, New York to Portland, Maine.  He moved to Portland because he was recovering from cancer and needed to be closer to me and my sister.  I have an apartment in my house so it made the most sense for Dad to move in with me.

     Having my father live in my house was definitely more work for me because I shopped for his groceries and often cooked him dinner. I didn’t mind the cooking because I was cooking for my family anyway but the shopping was sometimes a challenge. It took me forever to find the right kind of Pepsi–gold label, no caffeine, full sugar–and half the time they didn’t have it in stock anyway. I think my father was the only person who wanted all of the sugar and none of the caffeine in his soda. Though it was a bit more work to have my dad with me, it was also much more fun because is was as if a friend had moved into my house.  One of the things we did to help my father stay occupied was to set up a Netflix subscription for him. At first I managed his queue and picked all his movies for him since I had a computer and he didn’t but then he started complaining about my choices. He said my movies were “too sappy” or “too boring”.  My sister Tricia solved the problem by buying Dad a Siskel and Ebert movie rental guide and he began picking his own. I thought that was the answer to his movie dissatisfaction but it was really just the beginning of my mine!

     It was a weeknight and Francis, my five year old son, went to bed early. I called downstairs to Dad and asked if he had any Netflix movies he wanted to watch together.  Between my full-time teaching job and my busy family life I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to just hang out with my dad so we were both excited for an impromptu midweek movie night.  I filled a bowl with green grapes, said good night to my husband Michael and headed downstairs.  I poured Dad a big cup of his favorite Pepsi, grabbed us a handful of KitKats from his secret stash and snuggled under the blue fleece blanket on the couch in his living room. He popped in the DVD and settled into his comfy chair.

     The DVD sprang to life and after the previews and rating came and went, the title flashed in big red letters across the screen. It said, “CANDY MAN”.  I thought, “Oh good!  Maybe this movie is like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory!”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It was a horror movie, which is one genre of movie I NEVER watch.  I get nightmares just seeing the cover of a scary movie.  Candy Man was a about an apartment building haunted by a killer and a woman who wanted to find out more about the death that occurred there.  I kept glancing at my dad, sure he was as horrified as I was about what this movie turned out to be. Strangely enough, he looked totally engrossed in the movie!  The more stupid the movie became, the more interested my father seemed.  “How could this be?”  I wondered.  MY father, enjoying this low-budget horror movie?  MY father, the man who read the New Yorker and the New York Times religiously?  The man who creamed me at Jeopardy every night?  The man who never went to college but knew more from 84 years of serious reading than I could ever hope to learn in my lifetime?  Yup, that man was enjoying a movie I think your average teenage boy would find ridiculous. 

     Despite the fact that the movie creeped me out and I was sure I would have nightmares, I smiled as I walked upstairs to my own apartment when the movie ended.  I decided maybe I didn’t know my father as well as I thought I did, but I was so grateful for the chance to keep learning more about this man who was not only my father, but one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had.

Portland Car Wash Adventure by Carmen

     When I was younger I loved going to carwashes. Well, I still do like them. “Swish, swash, swish, swash, mmm… click!” That’s the sound of the carwash running. But on one peculiar day when I was about seven years old, those were not the sounds that I heard.

         “I’ll be back in about twenty-five minutes! I have to go to the carwash!” my dad shouted down the stairs to my big sister, Alicia and me.

         “I want to go! I want to go! I want to go!” I shouted as annoying as any other normal 6-8 year old would do.

         “Okay. Now hurry up. Alicia are you going?”

         “No I have some homework to finish,” Alicia replied.

         “Okay!” my dad shouted back down the stairs.

         I ran up the stairs with a smile as big as a banana on my face. I whipped on my jacket and I headed for our green Volvo. It took about 10 minutes to get the carwash in Portland from my dad’s house in Cape Elizabeth.

         It was a rather small carwash but it worked just as well as any other. We pulled into the entrance of the carwash and slid our money into the box like machine. “Clink! Clink! Zzz!” It sucked in the money like it had never seen it before, as my mom would say.

          My dad drove our car into the carwash. The carwash started up. “Swish, swash, swish, swash! Mmm…” It went on like that for a while just as it’s supposed to.

         The bubbles of soap surrounded the outside of the car like little robbers with the metal roof playing the role of the security guard keeping the bubbles from coming into the car.

         The carwash suddenly slowed down. “Ssss…sss…sss…” The machines stopped.

         “Click, click, click, thunk!” the garage doors closed. We were locked in the carwash. Me and my dad. In a small green Volvo. My heart was pounding faster than a cheetah when prey is lurking around.

         “Oh no! What are we going to do?!?” I thought.

         “Uhhh…what’s happening? I asked my dad even though I was pretty sure what was happening. It was simple: me and my dad got stuck in a carwash and we have no clue what to do. It happened just like that! In a snap!

“ I know just as much as you about what’s happening. No more, no less,” my dad replied.

         The garage was dark now, with soapy water spread across the hard cement floor. My dad opened his door and stepped out. There was still a faint buzz from the complicated machines around us, but no water was spraying and no soap was bubbling out of a machine.

         My dad looked around and rested his forehead in his palm as his face pointed at the ground and shook his head.

         “Oh no,” he said.

         “Call someone,” I offered. “Like Grampie or Aunt Jean-Marie!” I thought it was a brilliant idea but apparently my dad didn’t.

         “What is that going to do? We are stuck in a carwash. We can’t get out and they can’t get in. All we can do is wait.”

         I could feel my hands tremble as I fiddled with my thumbs. Goosebumps were rising from my arms one by one, two by two. More and more I wondered what would happen. What would happen if we were stuck in here forever? Would we starve to death? Would I have to drink that soapy water from that dirty cement floor? How long would it take to brake through those metal doors. So many thoughts ran through my head.

         “Thump! Thump! Thump!”  A loud sound interrupted dreadful thoughts. The horrible sound seemed like it was coming from the outside of the garage door. My dad walked over to the door. There was no way to open that heavy garage door so he just pounded back on the door in reply.

         “Hello! Is anybody out there?”

         “Thump! Thump! Thump!”

         “Is anybody out there?”

         It kept going on like that for a while with the only reply being more thumps on the other side of the door.

         My dad didn’t appear to be frightened at all. But he must have been. I mean, who wouldn’t? But it must have been very clear that I was scared half to death.

         “Zzzz. Zzzz. Zzzz.” The machines slid back in place. It started to mist inside the shut doors. My dad ran back to the car and got in and clicked on his seat belt.

         The garage doors opened ever so slowly. A drip of light leaked in through where the garage doors had already opened. Then a half a glass of sunlight poured in until a whole glass dumped in through the doors. My dad started up the car and drove out. We both sighed with relief.


Peaks Island Bike Ride by Carmen

     Bump! Bump! Click! I got my bike from the backyard of the cozy light blue cottage I stay in every summer on Peaks Island. I got in the front yard and snapped on my helmet trying hard not to pinch myself.

             “Are you ready to go on a bike ride?” my dad asked my big sister and me.

             “Sure but where are we going?” I asked curiously.

             “Around the island,” he replied.

             “All the way around the island!?!”  I said surprised.

             “Oh that’s right! This is your first time around the Island isn’t it?” my sister Alicia asked.

             “Yes! Now let’s go!” I said with a grin on my face.

             I was only six or seven at the time so riding all the way around Peaks Island was a pretty big deal. Though this happened three or four years ago, the movie that keeps replaying in my mind makes me remember it so well and makes it feel as if it was just yesterday that this happened.

             Seeing the dirty black tires roll along the rough black tar with that dash of silver that your eyes only see at a certain distance away made me feel certain I was going one hundred miles per hour. I felt the warm wind blowing through my hair. It felt like my hair were pieces of yarn, like I was a little Raggedy-Ann doll. I smelt the scent of the cool ocean spray and I heard the sound of the waves crashing among the rocks of backshore. Backshore, everybody’s ought to like backshore. The beautiful scenery. Big rocks getting a shower from the cold misty waves coming in from big boats out to sea.

             Of course I had rode my bike out to backshore before for it was only a minute away from our cottage. But this time I felt more powerful.

             Hearing all of my cousins, most of them older than I am, say that they had rode around the Island made me feel even better. This was an adventure for me. Some of the places we say that day I had never saw even though I had been going to Peaks Island ever since I was born. It felt like I was somewhere else.

             We went over lots of hills, some little and some big. But Ice pond hill, that big Ice pond hill, I just couldn’t make my legs get my body up and over that big Ice pond hill.

             As I was admiring the scenery I saw something up ahead on the road. I wanted to stop but I just decided it was a stick. The stick like object was only about five feet away from me now. That’s when I saw it. It was slithering across the road. It was no stick for sure. It was a snake! My hands were frozen. They could not move to pull the brakes. I hit the snake with my front tire smoothly going over it. “Brump”. I heard the faint bump of the snake going under my front tire. I did not know what to do. My heart was beating as fast as a racecar going full speed at the finish line. Now the snake was under my pedals. My whole body was frozen now. It jumped up mouth wide open going for my ankle. “What if it does bite me?” I thought. I squeezed my eyes closed; I sealed them like a zip lock bag. “Brump”. Another faint sound of the snake going under my back tire. I was as startled as the snake must have been.

   The rest of the bike ride was fine. Now I laugh about it. Right after that scene I was almost too scared to talk. But about ten minutes after the snake I just started to laugh. And because this happened on the first bike ride around the Island it makes a whole different story to me.


Welcome, Kids and Families!

This summer I took a technology course at the University of Southern Maine. The course was designed to give teachers technology tools to use in the classroom to help teach all subjects. I learned so much and am so excited to put these tools to use in the classroom this year.

I have created this blog in the hope that it will inspire kids to want to write more. Too often kids work so hard on their writing only to have their teacher and a few classmates be their only audience. This blog gives us the opportunity to post writing such as reader’s responses, book reviews, personal memoirs and editorials. Family members such as grandparents in Florida, a dad stationed in Afghanistan, or a working mom at her desk at a bank in Portland can read the work and post comments on it. Kids in other schools in Maine and across the country can read our work and post comments as well. Our writing will expand beyond the walls of Woodside School and into the world at large.

When you have time, explore the blog a little bit. Its creation and design is a work in progress for me, but the main writing you will see throughout the year here will be kids’ writing. When school starts I will send home forms asking for your permission to post kids’ writing and their photographs. First names only will be used throughout the year and no child’s work or photo will be published without your written permission. We welcome you into this roomful of writers, readers, and bloggers. Please join us on our adventure!