Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America














My grandfather grew up in South Boston, Massachusetts almost his entire life. He has recently moved to Weymouth and has bought a condo in Naples, Florida where he spends seven months of the year. He is currently eighty-six years old and is in good health. He is the only one of my grandparents I have ever known because the others died before I was born. This has made him the only grandparent I could talk to and he would always baby-sit my brothers and I when I was young.

While he was over he would tell us stories about his childhood. One day when I was young, around twelve or thirteen years old, my father came home from work and said that he and my mother were going out to eat that night. As usual my brother Jeff and I would stay at my grandfather’s place and my sister and two younger brothers would go to my aunt’s place. My parents always split us up when we were being babysat because when the six of us were together, without our rooms to stay in or Nintendo, there was sure to be a problem. So Jeff and I got in my fathers big Lincoln town car and went to my grandfather’s. When we got there he welcomed us at the door and we headed to the living room to watch T.V.

He and my father talked for a while and then he came in and sat down with us. He started asking how school was and if we were behaving and we just yessed him to death until he began to talk about how my father was at our ages which eventually lead to one of his classic stories that is still told today. That story he told to me and my older brother Jeff was an incident involving my father when he was around sixteen years old. He said that my father was a typical teenage boy who thought he was the toughest thing on the face of the planet. One day my father, Thomas, as he always calls him and never Tom, as everyone else does, was working in a mechanic garage and had gotten himself in an argument with one of his customers.

The guy in the shop wanted my father to put new brakes in his car because the ones he had gotten put in two weeks ago were squeaking. My father couldn’t do it that day because it took time that he didn’t have. One thing led to another and a fight broke out. My father supposedly beat the guy bad enough that he had to go to the hospital that night to get his head stitched up. It turned out that my grandfather had known the man that my father beat up. When he heard about the incident a few days later he went to find out what happened. My father got mad that my grandfather wasn’t taking his side and got in an argument with him. Typical teenage tough guy was what my father said about him. Anyway, my father wouldn’t hit my grandfather even though my grandfather could see that he wanted to. No matter how much he provoked him he wouldn’t.

My father told him that he would never hit him ever in his life because he was his father. My grandfather still gave him a beating for beating his friend up but said that my father did have respect for him. I think this story is very close to home. I can remember times when I’ve wanted to hit my father now that I’m sixteen but never have and I never will. This is the typical tough teenager that thinks he can kill anybody but will never lay a hand on his own father.












Island Surrounded by Cement

     Everyday we wake up and most likely walk directly to the bathroom with no regard to our surroundings, only thinking about our destination.  We don’t think of where we are, only where we will be.  This same idea happens to me on my way to and from school five days a week.  I get in my truck and drive right by places that I would never look twice at, only thinking about getting to Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee and from there about getting to school on time.  Among the places I and thousands of others on their commutes pass is a little island of mulch and plants at the entranceway to Stop and Shop.  It isn’t a spectacular array of plants like you would see at a resort or an amusement park but it is still a piece of nature in an unlikely place, yet I have not witnessed a single person stop and watch or even glance at it.
     The island sits about six inches off of the ground surrounded by cement curb and filled in with mulch.  Plants we planted some years ago and flowers are planted each spring.  Thousands of humans walk or drive by this island daily and don’t notice nevermind appreciate it.  Stop and Shop is only one of the stores inside the small mall area in which the island marks the entrance, but is the most visited.  While observing the island I have seen the mulch change shades of brown from an almost black after it rains, to a light brown when the sun was shining on it.  Several times leaves piled up on one side of it showing which way the wind was blowing the night before.  Candy wrappers seemed to be attracted to this island, which is covered with various types of wrappings.      I have seen hundreds of older ladies with a car load of groceries pull a few from the cement siding, look both ways and pull out onto the street not once the island or plants brushing their eyes.  While I was parked in a slot near the island one day, I witnessed a man, who looked like a construction worker, throw a have smoked cigarette out of his dump truck straight into the plant, not appreciating the natural spot, but instead using it as an ash tray.  Younger kids like my little brothers and their friends run over the mulch and plants every weekend while going down to Papa Gino’s to eat, never thinking of how the little bit of nature brings light to the dull surroundings of cement.  I myself used to run over it when I was younger and didn’t think twice about it.
     The island is an American one because it contains mulch, which brings to mind the tall pine trees that I see when I’m in New Hampshire or Maine and how only in America you can see those gigantic trees.  It reminds me of history class in a way.  When America, or the United States, started out as a country it was rugged and unshaved.  There were trees all across New England that made up great forests.  Soon enough we, being humans, cut them down and began to build and take the space that used to be natural ones.  The island seems to try to bring a little bit of the nature that used to be there in the past, before it was covered with cement, and put it back where it belongs.  It’s an island of nature in and industrialized area where nature is rarely seen.
     I passed this island for years and would have continued to do so for as long as I live I around it if I was not asked to look for a spot that was unnoticed.  Now that I have observed it I have come to appreciate it and applaud the people who put it there.  It is literally an island in a sea of cement.  I have already come into the habit of looking at it every time I pass it and will in the future.














     The poem that I chose to write a response to was “My Life Closed Twice before its Close” by Emily Dickinson.  Dickinson was not well known during the time of her life and only published seven poems while she was alive but she has now been viewed as on of America’s most influence poets.  This poem shows how you can feel as though your life has ended before you are dead.

     Throughout one’s life there are good times and bad times.  This poem displays a time in life when a person felt down.  The word “close” or “closed” suggests that she felt as if her life was over before she had stop breathing.  There must have been an event in her life that changed it completely and the life she once knew of had changed.  It most likely was a negative one for her to say her life had closed and compare how she felt with death.

     This poem can be applied to every person’s life.  There are times in life when you are up on a high and feel that everything is going right and you are completely happy.  On the other hand, there are times in people’s lives that they are so low and things seem to be going wrong all around them that they feel life is at a close.  That saying about how life is a roller coaster is one hundred percent true and as I grow older I am realizing it more and more.  A big event in someone’s life such as losing a family member or especially parent can make a person feel like life has come to a close.  However, life has not come to a close, life as you knew has changed and you have to adjust and, in a sense, start a new life.

     “My Life Closed Twice before its Close” is an American poem because every American, unless you have be extremely lucky, has experienced what Dickinson is trying to portray.  Life is not perfect and there are times when any American has been down and felt life came to a close.  Dickinson must have had two major events in her life that divested her and changed her life before she actually died, or up to the time she wrote this poem.  This poem accurately displays how one can feel at times and how one can see events that occur throughout their lives.

     I could feel what Dickinson felt when she wrote this poem upon reading it.  I was at such a low at the time that just reading the title I knew that this was the poem.  I felt that my life, as I knew it at the time, had come to a close.