Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America



You're Dreaming
















You are Irish American” my mother answered back when I was in grade school after I had asked her my nationality. I had never been able to ask my maternal grand parents about the first member of our family to come to America, because they had passed away before I was even born. I turned to my mother to learn about the story of my great great grandmother, Honora Clifford Cotter, who was the first person in my family of Irish descent to come to America.

Everyday as a little girl growing up in Mission Hill, my mother always looked forward to dinner time. This was mainly due to the fact that her family only talked about two things, politics and her true Irish ancestors. The topic of her Irish ancestors always brought a true sense of pride into her family. “I will finish my home work later”, my mother said to her father as they finished dinner. “I want you to tell me about grandma and her mother when they were still with us”, she said. “They will always be with us Cathy and they want you to be proud of your Irish roots and where they came from”, he answered. “Tell me please”, my mother begged. As the story , my mother heard over one hundred time, goes my great great grandmother was a true heroin.

As a widowed mother of six children at age thirty, times in poverty-stricken Ireland had become tough for Honora Clifford Cotter. However,she had heard many good things about this “land of opportunity” known as America.

It was at this point that she knew she had to move her family there. She sold the only real asset she had, the family’s farm, for enough money to book passage to America and start a new and better life there. It was on a damp day in the spring of 1872 when Honora and her six children left their Irish homeland and set out on a Cunard Line ship headed for Boston, Massachusetts. Some four and a half weeks later on a warm day,on which the sun was shining on Boston Harbor, the ship made port in East Boston, Massachusetts.

After loading their luggage onto a carriage,Honora told the young man who was driving to take them to Kerry Village,(named after Kerry, Ireland) which is today known as the Bay Village part of Boston. This is where many other Irish immigrants had settled including their previously migrated relatives. Honora loved this new world and was thrilled by how much her children enjoyed it. Although, after a decade Honora along with many of her extended family moved to Mission Hill to be near The Bascilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Roxbury. Several generations of the Cotter family made their homes and raised their children in Mission Hill, including my great grand mother, my grand father, and my mother.

Back in the 1800’s it was very unusual for a woman to come with her whole family from Ireland. Traditionally most Irish immigrants sent one teenager or young adult at a time. They would work in domestic employment as maids, cooks, and chauffeurs. When they had made enough money they would send it back to Ireland and the next member of the family would “come out” of Ireland to America and do the same.

However, my maternal great great grandmother, Honora Clifford Cotter would not have it any other way. Honora brought all six of her children to this great country, one of which was my great grand mother, Catherine Cotter. Catherine Cotter Leonard then named her youngest son Clifford, her mother’s maiden name. Following this pattern Clifford’s daughter Catherine named her oldest son (myself), Clifford.

I am very proud of my Irish ancestors and the greatest decision my great great grandmother ever made, in moving her family to America. In conclusion the so called “melting pot”, (America) is where many people over time have immigrated. Particularly Irish-Americans who have without a doubt served as a good hard working people in the country. This report has also helped me to find out that I have a direct link to my great great grandmother, Honora Clifford Cotter, the first member of my family ever to immigrate to this country from Ireland.













Backyards are part of many American lives. The memorable parties held there, along with all the grass stains and cuts, as well as the wiffle ball games on those hot summer nights and snowball fights during those winter blizzards. All of these occurred in the back yard. The yard across the street from my house in West Roxbury belongs to an older couple whose kids are grown up but still have two rottweilers who are still in residence. They have seen many things come and go over their years living there. I made observations of this part of nature for two weeks, and saw quite a few changes as well. Not in the sense of parties and kids having fun, but rather I observed changes within nature. In my opinion, nature is something that is “just there” and is very unappreciated. This is the view of nature through the eyes of many Americans, myself included. However, there does come a point in most Americans lives when they see the changes that natures goes through in comparison to the changes in their lives as human beings. Thoreau said, “The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels”. Over the period of two weeks I traveled many paths within my mind, and have reminisced on my thoughts along the way.

     As I made my way over to the yard twelve times over a period of two weeks, I saw many changes. Yet one major thing remained the same, the beauty of nature. It is     a mystery how something created in just seven days, could remain so supreme millions of years later. This yard may not be the most peaceful place in nature. However, it is without any hesitation one of the most interesting places in nature. Leaves of red, yellow, and orange fall from the large maple tree to the grass which is occasionally frozen rock solid. The two rottweiler’s on the prowl of their home turf if you will. The smell of burning leaves I got while observing the yard. Each of these are a part of nature in its own point of view. Most people tend to be too oblivious, that this great area of nature actually exists. These people do not look past the two large dogs and the high chain link fence around the yard. This yard like many other places in nature cannot be judged just by the sense of vision, sound, smell, or touch. Rather it must be thought over in the mind in order to determine how great it really is. It will be at that time of reflection that this part of nature can be rightfully appreciated.

     On my way out to the yard on a cold morning, which happened to be Thanks-giving Day, there was only one word on my mind. The word that had the attention of my mind was “old”. I was thinking about the game I would be going to within the hour between Boston Latin School and Boston English High School. This rivalry dates back to the 1800’s making it the oldest high school football match up in the country. I then started to think about how Thanksgiving is one of America’s greatest and oldest holidays. I then turned my attention to nature and how old it is. The yard I had been observing was older then any game or holiday I could imagine. It was not always a yard to a house with a maple and a pine tree, a large area of grass and dirt, along with the ivy growing up the side of the house. Nature may be viewed as being very old by age, however, it is new in the sense of the magnificence which it delivers to people living now. Nature has quite a bit to offer as long as you take the time to look, you can always appreciate it. This specific part of nature, a yard where many people have raked leaves, watch their dogs run aimlessly, spend time with family, and see the banner of our country, the American flag flying high. America has many great parts of nature people just have to take the time to notice them.

     As I come to the end of the path within my mind, I see that silent thought and time is all it takes to look deeper into what nature has to offer. My journey is now complete, I have seen what nature has to offer as well as learned what it truly means. With the use of deeper thoughts and sharper senses I now have no questions as to what nature truly is.












We have all been there on a Monday morning and the weekend is no where in sight and you know the week ahead is going to last forever. However, once in a while the week flies by and its Friday after noon before you know it or at least you think so. This scenario is very common for a student at a local high school.
     "What's up O'Regan?""Nothing Mike just getting ready for another week at good old R.L,"said Kevin. "Yeah I know 5 full days, we will see the C.M. boys the end of the week though.""That's true but this week is going to go by so….."As Mike cut in and said "Alright kid I got to go I got Mr. Plover first period Ill see you at lunch."
"O.k. later Mike."
     Mike Regan and Kevin O'Regan of no relation went to the their respective first period classes. Mike sat next to Dominic in Mr. Berger's French class. "Dom did you study for Mr. Welds history test?"As Dom replied, "not really. Did you?"
"Yeah until four thirty this morning."
During the class Mike put his head down on the desk, and the next thing he knew was that everyone was moving to go to second period. Mike took the history test later that day and thought he aced it. The school day came to an end before Mike even knew it.
     Mike wasn't sure how he got to school on Tuesday. He told Kevin and Dominic, "I just appeared here some how".
Another odd thing occurred while Mike was in the library when a kid got in trouble for making photocopies of his hand just to win a bet or something. Other then that Mike went through the regular school day routine, which seemed to fly by right up until the end of the school day at two thirty. Mike went to basketball practice and for some reason he had unbelievable hang time. The whole team was shocked, "Oh my God is that Mike who just dunked that or am I dreaming", said varsity teammate Cody Jones.
"I hope I play like this tomorrow night at the game."
     Wednesday rolled around and Mike had forgot his book bag at home with all his homework. However, when he opened his locker all his books were there in his book bag with all of the homework completed. "I must be some type of a god,"Mike said to Dominic whose lockers were right next to each other.  
Mr. Kahn a teacher of history over heard Mikes comment and said, "Only in you dreams Regan."The day flew by once again and game time arrived at about six fifteen. The team's game plan was to give Mike the ball after his stellar performance at practice. They did just that as Mike scored 60 points in the game breaking a Roxbury Latin school record.
     Mike got a ride from Kevin to school on Thursday, both of them very anxious for the weekend ahead. The day like all of the others over the past week went by extremely fast. "I thought this week would be slow as anything O'Regan.""I know Mike its quick as anything, only one more day."
     Mike was pumped at school on Friday, "One more day till the weekend, I love it."During third period Mike got back the history test he took on Monday and he got one hundred out of one hundred which was a surprise because Mike had never seem a grade this high on his own paper in quite along time. Mike shouted "I am the man,"right at the bell rang, that's when Mike woke up.
"NO it is still Monday, this is horrible, I was just dreaming this whole time just flew by and all this awesome stuff happened to me.""Mr. Regan please see me for detention at two thirty, you fell asleep in my class, that's not acceptable."said Mr. Berger as he placed a detention slip into the front pocket of Mikes shirt.














The war of 1812 began with an early defeat of the British Navy by America and

their warship the U.S.S. Constitution. This marked the first time since America had

gained independence that they let the world know they would not back down from any

challenges that they may face especially the British Navy, who at the time was the best in

the world. Since this time the U.S.S. Constitution has been a symbol of great pride and

strength to the people of the United States of America. Oliver Wendell Holmes also saw

this ship as an important piece of American history. Holmes became known nationally as

a poet when he wrote, Old Ironsides, to protest the destruction of the ship in 1830.

Throughout the poem Holmes tells the story of this legendary warship, as well as the men

who served and died while on board.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes used his fine poetic

crafting and display his American Patriotism he was able to write one of the greatest

American poems, and save this ship, which remains intact today some 205 years later.

     In writing “Old Ironsides”, Oliver Wendell Holmes uses allusion so that he does

not sound too aggressive toward those who wanted to take the ship apart. Therefore he

disguised as he did in the lines, “The Harpies along the shore shall pluck, The eagle of

the sea!” These lines relate to Old Ironsides as “the eagle of the sea”, however, these lines

have a deeper meaning to them from the view of Oliver Wendell Holmes. The meaning is

actually true if you take a more in depth look and you realize that these two lines are very

well thought out. The harpies were hideous half woman, half bird creatures in Greek

mythology. Their singing made sailors crash their ships into rocks very close to the shore.

Oliver Wendell Holmes uses the Harpies to represent the greedy people who wanted to

dismantle the U.S.S. Constitution, or pluck the Eagle of the Sea. These two lines go very

well together and show off Holmes intelligence as a writer quite distinctly as long as you

look for the deeper meaning.
     Oliver Wendell Holmes, shows that he was not only a poet but a patriot as well.

As it became evident that Holmes shows a true sense of American patriotism, in certain

lines throughout the poem. “Her deck once red with heroes blood”. This line without

question shows that Holmes has great respect for each man who had fought on the ship

and died in the line of battle. The respect that Holmes had for these men is what

encouraged him to write this poem, and to make sure that this ship remain

intact. I believe Holmes saw this ship as a memorial to these men who had died, just as

the wall of names is to those who died in the Vietnam War. The most recent example of a

memorial such as Old Ironsides is the one at Ground Zero in New York City, for the

members of the New York Police and Fire Departments who died on September 11th.

Holmes also distinguishes himself as patriot in line 21 “Nailed to the mast her holy flag.”

This shows the pride that Holmes has in his country and it made me feel

the same way. Making this type of a statement in a poem to protest the dismantling of this

ship could not have been written any better from the view of an American.

     Holmes is very intelligent, in the sense of the symbolism that he uses within his writing. It is a common theory that as time goes on society changes as well as the standards that people live by. However, the people of America would, still accept the poem “Old Ironsides”, today, even thought the poem was written one hundred and seventy years ago, it’s still part of history. The poems basic principal remains the same, in that Americans all have to show respect for those who have made this country the place it is today but also the flag that symbolizes. Oliver Wendell Holmes believed very strongly in both of these two points. I truly believe that other people such as my classmates who have had the opportunity to read this poem feel the same amount of pride as I do and understand what it means to be part of something as big as the country that we call our home. All of which Holmes was able to write about in Old Ironsides.

     Oliver Wendell Holmes could not have written this poem with any more pride,

intelligence, and unique writing style. Regardless of the fact it was a legendary warship,

it was in reality a piece of American History. Do to Holmes’s extraordinary amount of

courage and patriotism, Old Ironsides is currently in port at Boston Harbor.






















   Abbner Doubleday and David N. Mullany are two of the greatest American sports hero’s of all time. However, most people have no clue that David N. Mullany is the
inventor of the other “Great American Past Time”, wiffle ball. He founded the game in 1954 on the streets of Oak Park, Illinois using a plastic broom handle. Wiffle ball is the one game that immortalizes kids as legends through there neighborhoods, or so you thought. Wiffle ball has held a world championship every year since 1979, not to mention that 24 states in the U.S. hold state championships. There is also a wiffle ball national circuit with 40 three-day winner talk all tournaments each year. The sport may be a run off of the game of baseball but it has become the passion of millions of people worldwide all of them known as “wifflers”.

     David Mullany grew up with a passion for baseball like many young kids do playing the game as much as he could. However, times were tough for the kids of Illinois’ Oak Park Projects and they had to make the best of what they had. Growing up in this neighborhood Mullany played a game called “half ball”, which was a ball very similar to that of a racquetball only cut in half. This allowed the ball to move quite a bit as the ball made its approach to the plate. The batter used pretty much anything they could get their hands on, but most often the batter used a handle to a wooden hockey stick. This amazed Mullany and made him think of how he could make an actual ball that would be able to move like a half ball. That brought Mullany to the theory of wiffle ball, which he mastered, by gluing the two half spheres together which gave the ball with holes on the entire ball. This model would eventually change to only one half. As well as the bats, which have been manufactured by a number of different companies, and  have brought quite a few changes to the game over time. (Story provided by the “History” link of the New Jersey Wiffle Ball Association website.)

     Pitches such as the Scrop, the “Riser”, the Clockwise Fastball, and the ever so dangerous “Pop” ball are each part of the fine art known as wiffle ball. Along with the yellow and black bats that immortalize all competitors at the beach, in the back yard, the local dust bowl, and at state wiffle ball parks and indoor arenas. The game has received a great deal of attention since the game became truly competitive in 1979. Since then it has made leaps matched by no other sport in the past two decades, with the exception of the AFL, (Arena Football League), according to Wiffle Ball 2K. Wiffle ball is also an NCAA club sport which 47 Division I schools compete with the hope of bringing home the “Home Run King” Trophy. (Home Run King: Wiffle ball bat manufacturer) It is amazing how a man, a plastic broom handle, two plastic semi-spheres held together by super glue, and a dream have turned into a world wide phenomenon some 50 years later.

     What would all of this history about the game be without some actual insight from some of the people that compete competitively with the realm of the wiffle ball world. I was able to obtain an interview with IWL pro (International Wiffle ball League) Karl Cyr, in April of 1999 from the International Wiffle Ball League Website. When asked why he enjoys playing even at the age of 32 he told IWL Web “I challenge myself against 19 and 20 year olds, because once you start playing you keeping setting higher goals. I also do play because it has helped me to make some extra money on the side anywhere from $100-$1000 in a single weekend tourney.” IWL Web also asked Cyr what other benefits come out of playing? “I’ve met an assortment of great men and women over the years as well as established rivalry’s will other competitors on the national circuit.”  I did not have to go far to find an amateur player, one of my own classmates Brian Goodwin who competes within the New England area during the Summer and the Fall. When I asked Brian what it was like to play in tournaments he said, “It takes up a lot of time so when I go with a couple of my friends on a Saturday at 8 a.m. I’m not going to one of these tournaments to lose but to have a good time and win the whole thing.” I also asked Brian what the people who play in these tournaments are like? He answered “Most of the people are teens to early 20’s and they all go to have a good time, but once in a while you find some real jerks, it is very rare though for people to be like that.” After conducting and reading these interviews I have come to realize that this game is not to be taken lightly.

     Its quite obvious that the game I love to play with my friends during a nice night during the summer just for fun is actually a very competitive within this country. It was also surprising to see how big this sport is and the venues at which it is played at not to mention where it came from. So in closing as Sparky Anderson, former manager of the Detroit Tigers, once said, “If you go a bat and a ball you better be having a game.”