Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America
Contents

Origins

Nature

Humor

Literature

Sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Sunday afternoon we were over at my Grandparents house for dinner. The conversation during dinner turned to what I was doing in school and how things were going. After talking about my life for awhile I asked my grandmother what her life was like when she was younger. She was happy to tell me all about her life. My father’s grandparents came from Italy to the United States right after the turn of the century. Life was hard in the old country and they wanted to see if they could make a better life here in America. My grandmother, my father’s mother was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts a year after they arrived. As it turns out life here was not the “road paved with gold” that they expected. Separated from family and friend’s back home and an even bigger hurdle of language they started to doubt that they had made a good move.

After five years of trying to make it work here, and the prospects of war looming in the horizon, they decided to return to Italy. When World War II, ended my grandmother married a soldier from the same village. They found life in Italy very hard. The economy was poor and jobs other than farming were almost non-existent. Just as her parents had done she and her new husband decided to move to the United States and try their luck here. She was already a citizen since she was born here so it was her job to come to America and get things started.

The prospect of coming to the United States back then had certain rules and regulations that had to be followed. First a sponsor had to be found. This had to be someone who lived in the United States and held a job and was responsible for you. They needed to make sure you had a job and a way of supporting yourself. If you could not work the sponsor was financially responsible for you. You needed to be able to find a job to stay here. There was no public assistance.

 

Once you had found a sponsor you then had to have the money to make the crossing from Europe to the United States. Airline flights were costly so the best means of travel was by ship. The accommodations were not in first class. Money was hard to come by right after World War II, ended. Passage on a ship to America was usually third class. Often the weather was stormy and rough seas made people feel sick. After eighteen months her husband and my father came here to live. She told me it was emotional to be reunited with your husband and son after being apart for so long.

My grandparents realized it would take years of hard work to become true citizens of the United States. They were determined to make this work and put all of their efforts into making their American dream come true. They took English courses so that they could understand others and be understood, they studied history so that when they took their citizenship test they would understand how our country started and pass the test that made you a United States citizen.

What a proud day when my father and grandfather raised their right hands and became American citizens. Their American dream did come true. It was not like the story they heard about streets paved with gold. The American dream takes hard work and determination. For an immigrant to come here and learn the culture and the language takes time, patience and hard work. It was a very interesting visit to my Grandparents home and I enjoyed listening to her life and contrast it to the way I live my life today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Our life is frittered away by detail,” wrote Thoreau.  His feelings about living on Walden Pond make us want to take time to look at nature more closely and to explore the reason why we exist at all and to question life in general and ask who is really in charge and making the rules for us to live by?
         Garden is a place that people associate with food and maybe flowers but it can also be a meditative or calming spot and a location where life hangs in the balance.  In the garden in the back of my house is just this kind of area.  Any person who takes the time to visit should want to stop and sit there for awhile and think about what is taking place.
     The first place you come to is the brick patio.  Looking straight ahead are tall trees that continue to move in the breezes of summer and in the winter they nearly touch the ground with the weight of the heavy new snow.  If you stop and watch the trees you forget all that went on during the day and even that you are breathing at all.  You watch the trees gently moving back and forth as the sky moves slowly overhead. They seem to wave at you and involve you in them.  As if beckoning you to come forward and listen to a secret.  As you look all the way up the tree it pulls your thoughts towards heaven and what lies beyond the earth above.  
     If you look down the bricks are alive with busy insects.  They are constantly moving and at first it looks as if they are just running wildly with no plan in mind.  Watching carefully you then discover that the plan is pretty clear.  They are searching for food and once located they move their prize back towards one of the many tunnels they have built.  As small as they are they have been given the ability by a higher power to organize their colonies and provide for themselves.  This is a plan of nature put into action by a divine creator to ensure future generations.  Only a superior life form could arrange and generate all the functions in a universe.  A high power dedicated to creating a perfect world for all to inhabit.  


     Looking towards the garden I notice that the sky has darkened and become angry.  The clouds have disappeared and have been replaced with gray skies and stronger winds.  I like nothing better than a good strong storm that can bring the rain from the heavens down to my level.  
I walk closer to the garden and find that grass is lying flatter and makes a pathway for me.  The wild vegetation flutters in the wind and leaves begin to blow away.  I grab for one but it shoots by as if to tease me.  A prank by a once living object.  At one time alive and now gone.  A lesson for life.
The rain begins slowly and small puddles form in the garden.  The green plants look shiny and spring back each time a drop of water falls off.  The weary plants look happier by the minute as water reaches their roots and gently flows upward.  The trees in the garden swing back and forth as if urging me to return indoors and leave them alone.  
I walk slowly back towards the house and feel the presence of something watching me from somewhere else.  Giving me silent messages from the flora.  The earth can be happy and peaceful sometimes and then it can be angry and harsh with destruction.  There can be mystical moments watching the trees and creatures and then there can be the seconds when mortality and reckoning creeps in.
     As time goes on it becomes clear that somewhere there is a spiritual being that had amazing plans and ideas of what life should be like.  The garden is an example of how life begins and then ends.  To be able to have the ability to think freely and explore life and what the garden represents is a truly American experience.  To have free will to explore and let imaginations interpret what life is all about is a freedom that is in fact American.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian and Joe are good friends and every weekend they try to find something fun to do.  One weekend they went to their friends' homes at night after dark and put their faces up to the window with a flashlight under their chins.  They got it all set up then tapped on the glass and nearly scared them to death.  
     In class one day the history teacher assigned their class a project.  There was an exhibit at the local Museum that the teacher wanted them to research and write a paper about.  When they heard that they had to go to a Museum they weren't really very happy.  
     "This is dumb man," said Joe.
     "Yeah, I hear ya man," agreed Brian.
     So, the following Saturday they headed off for the Museum. They weren't the happiest they had ever been. Brian was driving and it was raining pretty hard and since he was kind of ticked off he drove directly into puddles and tried to splash the people on the sidewalk. Every time they splashed someone they cheered and weirdly that helped to cheer them up.
     At the museum they started looking around. At first they were not taking this seriously.  At one exhibit the artifacts were enclosed by glass and several times Brian started trying to rock them and tap hard. This made Joe laugh a little too loudly. A security guard started following them around.  
     "Hey, if were gonna lose this joker lets look cool," said Joe.  
     "Ye, Ye, Ye, be cool dude, look interested" said Brian.
     They finally found the painting they were supposed to be researching. The security guard had moved on.  Joe pulled out his notebook and black magic marker.  Brian got up close to the painting and Joe couldn't see it.  
     "Get out of my way man," said Joe.
     "I'm lookin' first dude," said Brian.
     "No you ain't," said Joe.
     "Yeah, I am man," said Brian.
     "Get outta my face man," said Joe.
     With that Brian shoved Joe and his black marker hit the painting.  A huge black streak was now down the middle of the masterpiece.  
     "Whoa, man," said Joe.
     "Look at what you did man," said Brian.
     Joe shoved Brian and he hit the corner of the frame and it fell to the ground. They backed up a few steps and stared at each other.  Brian picked it up and tried to put it quickly back on the wall.  Joe tried to grab it from him and fell back.  As he fell the frame broke from the pressure and the painting fell out.
Sirens began to go off and they could hear running feet.  They felt they had to get out of their fast.  There was no way they could explain that it was just an accident that this priceless masterpiece was ruined.  Now scared they picked up the painting and started running for the exit.  Joe shoved it inside his jacket.
     As they stood at the top of the stairs in front of the exit, a security guard they hadn't seen before came into view.  They were sweaty and shaking but trying hard not to show any emotion.
     "What's happen'en, boys?" Asked the guard.
     "Whatcha mean dude?" Said Joe.
     "An alarm went off did you see anyone suspicious?" Asked the guard.
     "Dude, we saw this freak going down that hallway, he had long hair and a moustache, and he scared us!" said Brian pointing in the other direction.
     "Yup, Yup, Yup," stuttered Joe.
     "Okay, stay here, you may have to identify the person," commanded the guard.
     As soon as the guard left they started running towards the exit that was right in front of them.
     "Just move dude and don't look back," said Joe.
     "Whew, we were almost caught," said Brian.
     "What do we do now man," asked Joe?
     "Let's get outta here," said Brian.
     Brian pushed on the exit door and it was locked.  He pushed again harder and then slammed his fist against the door.  At that moment the guard appeared again and pointed his gun at them.  
     "Hey," shouted the guard.
     "We give up man!" don't shoot they shouted.
     "Just come with me, right now," commanded the guard.
     They followed the guard into the office and sat down where he pointed.  He asked them to explain what happened.
     "Man, we got no money to pay for that paintin', said Joe.
     "Yeah, it was a bad happen'en man," said Brian.
     "Just a accident, you know," said Joe.
     The guard listened to what they had to say.  Then he explained the situation.
     "The painting is a replica," said the guard, "It is only worth a couple of hundred dollars, the real masterpiece is hanging in a Paris art museum."
     "So, we ain't headed for prison?" asked Joe.
     "No, you just gotta pay for the one you destroyed, and that's it," said the guard.
     "Cool," said Brian, "we can do that man."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author expresses his feelings in imagery to help us understand his pain. James Russell Lowell conveys the sense of how he grieves for the child he lost.  This poem gives you the feeling of the deep sorrow that never completely goes away when a parent or parents loses a child.  It helps us understand that even though you have had other children, the one you lost is no less important to you.


    By using a snowstorm at night he shows confusion. In the poem he starts out by telling you that the snowstorm starts right around night-time when the light of the day is fading and people have a feeling that they want to be somewhere safe and out of a bewildering situation. "The snow had begun in the gloaming, (evening) and busily all the night."  Right away you can visualize that snow is piling up outside, swirling and making the area look different. Then he goes on to write "Had been heaping field and highway with a silence deep and white."  As the snowstorm continues to rage on everything outside looks strange and unnatural.  This imagery helps us to understand how the author has felt because his child went away.  The confusion of why my child why did this have to happen to me.


    With this paragraph he shows a connection between the way he values his child to riches a king would wear. "Every pine and fir and hemlock wore ermine too dear for an earl…And the poorest twig on the elm tree was ridged inch deep with pearl."  This is worded to show how the snow was being compared to a fur like ermine that traditionally only people like kings would wear and this is how important that even though she is gone that his child is still deserving of love.  Lowell valued his daughters life very highly as if she were a princess in a royal family.


    Lowell shows how the protection that can be given by nature. His memories make him picture the cemetery where her headstone is now being covered in drifts of snow.  "I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn  Where a little headstone stood; How the flakes were folding it gently,  As did robins the babes in the wood."  Lowell has some comfort in relating how the flakes of snow were like a blanket that protected his daughter were similar to the way robins in a nest would cuddle their baby birds underneath their wings for warmth and security.  Even though he himself cannot give that protection and comfort to his lost child he pictures the drifts of snow wrapping her tightly and keeping her safe.


    With his poem he brings the living here on earth and the dead in heaven together. Mabel his daughter asks him an innocent question, "where snow comes from?"  "Up spoke our own little Mabel,…Saying, "Father, who makes it snow?"  He replies, "And I told of the good All-Father…Who cares for us here below." So even though he is sad he has some feelings of being comforted because God is taking care of his lost daughter while he takes care of his living child here on Earth.  Since God made all things from human beings to snow flakes, he is making a direct connection between the two.


    With his kiss he connects a living child and a lost child. When he gives Mabel a kiss, he seems to be able even for just a second to bring back the feeling that he is somehow able to reconnect with his lost child.  He says, "Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her…And she, kissing back, could not know…That my kiss was given to her sister folded close under deepening snow."  Mabel is unaware of how her father is feeling at that moment. Mabel is a very powerful instrument for Lowell and because of her he can bring back to his senses how the other child looked and felt.  For just a second he helps us feel that we are back in time with him and his other daughter.


    James Lowell has been able to give people who read his poem and have lost a child or someone special the feeling that he can relate to them.  He can help them to understand that they are not alone in their grief and others have felt the exact same way that he does. He makes it seem like if they want to, people are able to bring back the wonderful memories and sensations that they have of the person they lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The actual definition of cricket would be an outdoor game of uncertain origin, played with a ball and bat. That definition also includes the players who dress in white outfits and hit a ball that weighs from five to five and a quarter ounces and is slightly smaller than a baseball.  
     The rules are complicated in cricket.  One team sends two players to a wicket one behind the other.  The other nine players are placed around the field where they are likely to get the ball.  An umpire is stationed at each wicket.  The bowler throws the ball and the batsman may hit the ball in any direction.  After hitting it he can elect to run to the opposite crease.
The first cricket clubs in the United States were established during the 1700's, not long after they made their first appearance in England.  During that time wealthy men from the British upper classes and also British servicemen were the first gentlemen of leisure who played the game in America.  Believe it or not, several of this nations founding fathers were known to enjoy cricket. Other historic references to cricket include games in Georgia in 1737 and in Baltimore in 1754, the same year Ben Franklin brought a printed copy of Cricket Rules of Play home to the Colonies, almost one hundred years before the first book of baseball rules was published. There is evidence that some of George Washington's troops played a game of "wickets" at Valley Forge in the summer of 1778. John Adams made a statement in Congress that, "if leaders of cricket clubs could be called presidents, there was no reason why the leader of the new nation could not be called the same."
The first recorded American cricket match was in New York in 1751, on the site of what is today the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan. Shortly after United States cricket clubs made their appearance, clubs in Canada began to develop.  Soon there was cross border traffic and friendly rivalry when the first international cricket games started in the modern world. The United States even sent touring cricket players abroad.  Its greatest success came when the United States of America defeated the West Indies by nine wickets in an international match in British Guyana in the 1880's.
     Murray Goodwin and Neil Johnson are amateur cricket players of today who feel that in the world of Cricket things are getting competitive and one day they may be playing in a World Cup championship. In an interview Goodwin stated, "generally pressure is everywhere in this game.  First, you bat in the order that is set up. Sometimes I am the batsman, which is the player with the long flat, laminated willow bat.  That position has a lot of responsibility and playing can be stressful at times because pressure fluctuates." He goes on to explain some of the terms like, "Bowling A Maiden Over," which refers to the play where you bowl six balls without giving the other team a run.
     Johnson then interjects that he has "unfortunately had a 'duck' which means a batsman is sidelined for not getting any runs."  This has made him not only mad at himself, but other team members who are highly competitive are also angry with him.
     When both men are questioned as to what a "sticky wicket" means, they laugh and say, "that it actually refers to conditions created by close cropped, recently wet grass which can add a deadly spin to the ball."
     In America there was a cricket player called Pele who was known world wide for his championship playing ability. He says,  "the years that he spent playing were the best of his life."  While showing off some of the prizes he has won he tells about how "cricket was an extremely competitive and hard game to play."  He added that, "it was a disappointment to him when Cricket in America did not catch on." Pele has called Cricket "the beautiful game."
The 4th Annual Philadelphia Cricket Festival is part of what is considered by some to be an American renaissance of sorts. A renewed interest in the game, however, is not due to a rediscovery by Americans, but to the recent influx of immigrants from British Commonwealth countries. Today, there are about 250 cricket clubs active throughout the country with a pool of about 10,000 players. Greater New York is said to have 75 teams, Miami 31, Philadelphia 16, Washington 18, and Houston 10 with others spread about. Most clubs don't have their own grounds and play on matting wickets laid down in parks or baseball fields.
     The distinction of being the first cricket club goes to the Union Cricket Club of Camden, New Jersey, which started around 1840. The most important club in those days was the St. George's Country Club which moved from Manhattan to better grounds across the Hudson in the Elysian Fields at Hoboken, New Jersey, known also as the site of the first baseball game. The coach and groundsman was the famous Sam Wright.  His sons, George and Harry, were equally adept at baseball and cricket.
Cricket player turned professional sportswriter, Henry Chadwick wrote "The First Rules of Baseball."  Henry said during an interview, "Ask a cricketer about baseball and they'll tell you it was derived from cricket but there is another idea that it was copied from the English game of 'rounders'."  Chadwick added, "most Americans think Abner Doubleday invented the game but he had little or nothing to do with cricket."
     In the 20th century, cricket declined in the United States because in the late 1800's it had remained a strictly amateur sport played by the more elite classes.  During the biggest days of amateur cricket, the talented North American players could beat any of the best teams the world had to offer.  Cricket died off because it catered to the upper classes only and soon the interest stopped.  Fields were done over to accommodate golf and tennis, which were becoming the new national pastimes in America.
     During the 1970's, a rediscovery of American cricket began.  As cricket loving immigrant numbers grew in North America, their potential as an income sport began to interest entrepreneurs, corporations and organizations wanting something to invest in. Deb Das a cricket player, is hopeful that the sport can reclaim some of its former glory in this country. "We may never have a cricket Big Ten in America," he told me. "But if you're thinking soccer, even tennis, yes, we can get to that level. Twenty years ago soccer was as foreign as cricket is today. Then they introduced it as an alternate sport in elementary school. This is our challenge: to get it on TV and into schools. And have cricket camps for American kids." Maybe, the United States can recover its interest in the game of cricket and become a major participant in the world cricket game in the 21st century.