Yesterday, Morgan called to tell me that she had, again, forgotten her schoolwork. (She forgets her homework on a regular basis. It’s annoying.) She’d left her leaf project book (due that day!) on the coffee table of my cousin Mark’s house while she’d been waiting for the bus. I drive her and her eleventh-grade brother over to the old farmhouse every day to catch the bus because it won’t come down our rocky road. Weston usually waits on the old farmhouse porch and pets the cats. Morgan usually goes into my cousin’s house and steals a PopTart.
I bet they wonder where their PopTarts keep going.
The eighth grade around here means West Virginia History, and the leaf project is one of the notorious landmarks of the year. The students are required to collect leaves, put them in a book, and identify them. The passing down of the leaf project book from brother to sister to brother and so on is part of family tradition here. Not that you can re-use a leaf project book (the leaves become noticeably old, darn it!) but it’s all about the identification. Past leaf project books become handy resources in identifying the leaves all over again. Only leaves from trees native to West Virginia can be used.
The project also requires a paper to accompany it, and it turned out to be my luck to be put out and forced to drag myself over the hill to pick up her leaf project book in the end as it actually gave me a chance to read her paper. (She’d only written it at the last minute the night before, so I hadn’t seen it.)
I realized two things upon reading her paper. One, she’d made me laugh so much that every ounce of my annoyance had disappeared, and two, she has learned something about writing from me, after all:
If you have nothing important to say, at least try to be entertaining.
By the way, the paper was supposed to be something of a journal chronicling the student’s search for leaves. Morgan only listed two days in the journal, and for one of those days, she couldn’t even remember the date. The leaf expeditions she chronicled involved my cousin (Mark) and his wife (Sheryl).
Date: September 19th
I left the house at 7:30 am to help Mark move tree limbs away from the road. He asked what I was doing in school and I told him about the leaf project. He said, “Well, after we get done here, I’ll take you around on the Cushman and go find trees.” I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked, “What kind of tree is this?” and pointed at the tree we were picking up limbs from.
“That’s a White Pine.”
“Is it native?”
As soon as he said that, I ran over to the tree and tried to rip a little thingie off. Then I remembered that pines are soft woods and that it’s kind of hard to rip something off them. So that was an embarrassing scene filled with kicks and “grrrs” at the tree. I finally ripped it off! My first leaf! Woo hoo! Seriously, I felt so proud of myself….and then I realized I had 39 more to go. But back to the story or truth, whichever you wish to believe. Mark then pointed out a Pin Oak located across the yard, so I go running over there, and you know, far away the limbs didn’t look that high, but when you get closer, they are higher than you originally thought. When I reached the tree, I had to do that spiking thing that we were taught to do in volleyball.
We eventually ended up in the Cushman, which is a little hoodless type truck thingie, only it doesn’t look like a truck, and it goes slower than pretty much every automotive thing there is. We were driving down the road and when we reached where we were going to turn off, we went up this hill. Well, Mark is a big boy so the Cushman thought it was too heavy and, well, it died on us, so we had to walk up this big hill. Mark was pointing out that “this tree is some kind of maple.” We kept walking and he stops to look at a tree with flowers. He pulls off a flower and he said, “Taste it.” I took a bite of one and he tells me, “Don’t eat it, lick it, it’s a honeysuckle.” And then I didn’t get one of its leaves. [Note from Suzanne: Isn’t that a shrub?]
So after yet another embarrassing incident, we kept walking, and we heard something in the woods. I thought it was a coyote and I screamed, but it was a big deer/buck thing, and he laughed at me. I kept walking and we reached the plateau. (Ha! It isn’t pointless to teach us vocabulary. A lot of people say, “When are we ever going to use this?” Look! I just did!) But I didn’t really find any different trees and the ones we did find, Mark didn’t know what they were. Mark wanted to take an alternate route down so we went through the woods. Luckily I know my way through these woods and I’m not a klutz walking in the woods so I didn’t fall.
Date: I don’t remember.
I went with Sheryl and Madison to go to Madison’s birthday party at Sheryl’s mom’s house, and Sheryl and I took the dog, Cody, for a walk. As we were walking down the road, Sheryl saw someone she knew so we stopped and talked to him for awhile. Cody wanted to play with this guy’s dog, but this guy’s dog wanted to fight, so I was pulling on this stupid dog because he apparently doesn’t know the difference between aggressive behavior and playful behavior. Sheryl was afraid we’d lose Cody so she wouldn’t let him off the leash, so I had to walk with him as he used the world for his restroom. There was another neighborhood dog named Cash. He was fluffy and had a random gray spot on his chest. (If dogs have chests.) He didn’t want to play, either, but Cody didn’t get it. There was some giant tree there and we didn’t know what it was, but I took a twig anyway. Cody and I ran down the street and surprisingly, I wasn’t the tired one. (Thanks to volleyball.) We stopped at the end of the street and I handed Sheryl the leash and said, “Hold him, I’m going into this guy’s yard for some leaves.” I went traipsing through this guy’s yard taking leaves and I had no idea what they were.
That’s kind of it except that I forgot to bring them in so you could help me identify them. I say help, but I really mean so you could identify them. I only have about 30 leaves and half of them are wrong.
I abide you a good day, Mr. Halcomb.
I took the leaf project book in to her teacher and said, “I would like to ask you to grade this paper for what it truly is, an exercise in CREATIVE WRITING.”
She got a 100 (on the paper).