Redding student memoirs

Memoirs from students in Danielle Lingo’s eighth grade class at John Read Middle School in Redding.

The Tiniest Beach

By Keara S. Champagne

April 10, 2000, Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY

A man, with curly black hair and a warm laugh, and a woman, with hair the color of the sand beneath her toes and eyes the color of the ocean that roared behind her, walked along the shoreline. The happy couple had come down from Connecticut to visit the woman’s parents. The couple informed the woman’s parents that they would soon be moving in together to an apartment in New York City. The woman’s mother was frustrated because they were not yet married or even engaged, but they were still moving in together. The couple had fled the house and had come to their favorite beach Peters Pond. Little did the woman or her mother know that the man had a beautiful ring in his pocket that he planned on giving to the woman later that evening. The couple came home that night to a room full of disapproval that quickly turned into a room full of joy and excitement when the news was spread that the man and woman would be getting married the next June.

August 14, 2005, Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY

A happy, chubby, bald baby girl giggles with her mother, who was pregnant with the little girls soon to be little sister, and her father whose curly black hair had turned into a bald bulbous  head but still had a laugh that lit up a room . The little girl crawled around the sand running it through her fingers, inspecting each miniscule grain. The little girl picked up some seashells and ran her fingers over the ridges and bumps in the shell. She watched quietly as a seagull pulled a sliver of chicken off of a chicken bone. The girl was always observing her surroundings but still managed to trip over air. Her mother stood up and walked to the ocean to go for a swim. The girl watched as her mother pushed herself off of the checkered blanket using her palms, pulled her knees up to her chest and stood up. The girl mimicked her mother as usual, but this time she was successful. The girl took three or four steps towards her mother, who was now submerged underwater, and then fell back down to her knees and continued crawling towards the crashing water. The man picked the baby girl up and threw her in the air. He rushed down to the water to tell his wife that their daughter had just taken her first steps.

July 4th, 2011, Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY

A girl and her friend sit on the steps of their favorite ice cream shop, around the corner from their favorite beach, Peters Pond. The girl had cookie dough ice cream all around her mouth, chin, and nose. Some even managed to get up to her forehead. The girls friend face was spotless, as she drank a vanilla milkshake. The girls are polar opposites, but still are best friends. One girl had long wavy sandy blonde hair that is always hanging down hiding her face and bright greyish blue eyes. The other girl has short curly brown hair the is always tied up in a perfect ponytail with a blue and white polka dotted bow and deep brown doe eyes. The blonde girl is always in some sort of trouble and always the loudest person in the room. The brunette girl is always a goody-two-shoes and is on the shy side. But nevertheless they are best friends.

“There’s nothing to do around here.” the blonde girl exclaimed as she wiped her mouth on her bare arm. “We’ve swam in the ocean, eaten gallons of ice cream, played hide and seek at least 10 times.” The girl let out a sigh as her head fell into the palm of her hand. Suddenly, the brunette girl had an idea. The girls hopped on their bikes, which of course matched, and rode home.

When the girls returned home, they quickly got to work, gathering anything in sight to make this day anything but boring. Soon they had everything they needed for a sleepover to go down in history books. In front of them, on the front patio, laid a bag of marshmallows, 2 sticks, nails, a hammer, a roll of thick string, two sheets of fabric, three rolls of duct tape, two flashlights, backup flashlights, and extra batteries. It took 2 hours, but the girls had finally built themselves a fort, right on the beach.

Some hours later, the girls are fast asleep. The soothing noise of the ocean has lulled them into a calming, deep, undisturbable, sleep. All of a sudden, something in the tall grass beside them begins to move, coming closer and closer to the girls. The brunette girl was jolted awake and quickly shook the blond girl until she woke up.

“Hey, wake up,” she whispered “There’s something in the bushes. We gotta go back to the house.”

The two girls were very frightened so they quickly scattered out of there fort. It had to be at least 2:30 in the morning, so it was pitch black outside. The unaware 7 years olds ran in opposite directions, the brunette girl towards the house, the blonde girl farther away. The blond girl was terrified of coyotes, which sometimes appeared on this beach, so she ran extra fast, so fast she didn’t see the root in front of her. She tripped over the root and bit the dirt. She pushed herself back up and spit out the dirt and her wiggly tooth. After about 5 minutes she gave up looking and began to cry. A little while later her mother comes outside with a very angry expression on her face. She picks up the crying girl and brings her inside the house. She washes her knees with a cold wash cloth and wipes away her tears. She tells the little girl that her tooth will grow and become a huge tooth tree that you can visit when she is much older. The little girl, proud of herself for growing her very own tooth tree, climbs into bed and falls back asleep, dreaming of forests and forests of tooth trees

August 23rd, 2016, Sag Harbor, Long Island, NY

“Please tell me you’re joking.” a girl and her family sit on the beach, all in shock.

“Mom. How could you sell the house? Why did you?” the girls mother questions trying not to break into tears.

“I’m sorry Elizabeth but I couldn’t take care of it anymore.” the girls grandmother answers as she wipes a tear from the girls face. The girl does not say anything. She simply gets up and walks towards the crashing waves. She sits on a large rock and observes the scenery around her, trying to block out the horrid information she had just received.  That girl is me. The girl with the blue eyes like her mother and a laugh almost identical to her father’s. The girl took her first steps on the sandy beach. The girl that lost her first tooth in the roots and grass spread on the outskirts of the beach. The girl who lost her perfect escape but not the memories that came with it. A tear rolls down her cheek and falls past the rock and into the sand, somehow maintaining a perfect orb. Seconds later, a wave creeps up and engulfs the tear, lost at sea forever. But when the wave retreats, there is a tiny divot left in the sand, next to the girls tiniest toe, on the tiny beach. The girl slides off the rock and turns her back on the tiny divot in the sand and on the tiny beach for the very last time.

Shattered by a canoe

By Eva Smith

“We have to keep going,” I said trying to contain the geyser of tears that I could feel coming.

“No, we should wait for someone to help us.” Zoey argued. All of my emotions, that I had built up over the past few days of the trip, had suddenly caught up to me. I was so overwhelmed I could feel all of my anger and anxiety rise to my head. My head felt as if it was going to explode.

It was the summer of 2017, in the beautiful wilderness of Ontario, Canada with vibrant green pine trees that seemed to go on for ever, crystal clear water that only rose a few feet off the surface bottom, and four rustic red canoes with nine of my closest friends in them. There was no sign of civilization. We were completely submerged into the wild. All we had was each other. We had to pull our own weight and help others when they couldn’t. The chemistry we had was radiant, but there was one dark spot in the middle of the light, pushing us apart; Zoey. She did not want to be there and made sure that everyone knew it. Even before the trip, we knew she would hate it, but no one had the heart to tell her. She was so excited, it was all she talked about. We knew she would hate it because the previous year she had left our trip early because she was miserable and cried everyday, yet somehow she got the crazy idea into her head that she would enjoy a longer and harder trip. On our trip, everyone regretted not reminding her of the past experiences. We didn’t talk about it directly, but we all communicated well enough through exchanged glances.

By the fifth day, we had already done countless portages and paddled many miles. It would have been a perfectly enjoyable day, but it was my turn to deal with Zoey. As soon as our trip leader told us who our partners were, I immediately starting thinking about how I was going to keep myself from losing my cool. About 20 minutes into 9 hours of paddling, the inevitable happened. I began to get angry. It was mostly because Zoey was such a weak paddler that I was basically paddling myself, my pack, her pack, her, and a blue barrel that reeked of fish sent with everyone’s food in it. As I  predicted, we were way behind everyone else, and as the day went on we just got farther and farther behind the other canoes. The worst part was that when I told Zoey to paddle harder or to keep paddling, she would try for about one and a half strokes, two if I got lucky, and then go back to lollydipping. Her paddle barely touched the water, and she barely moved her arms. Meanwhile, I was behind her channeling all of my anger into strength to paddle as hard and fast as I could. After half day of that, I couldn’t deal with it anymore. My method of turning my anger into strength was not working. All I could think to do was scream, but I didn’t. I held it in.

When we got to what should have been an easy portage I had to remind Zoey of what she had to do. I was using all of my energy to stop myself from screaming. When Zoey finally got out of the canoe and tossed our packs to the side, I got out and made sure we were ready to portage, feeling as if I had to be her mother. We swung the canoe from the ground to our knees, then from our knees to our heads. It took us three tries and another person to get the canoe from our knees to our heads, something that everyone else can do on the first try, every time. When we finally got the canoe up,  I just started walking, my fury growing with each step.  We got to our first tree, I commanded “swing left” but she just couldn’t do it. Anyone else could have done it with without even thinking. I wanted to drop the canoe and scream, scream so loudly people back at camp could hear me, but I didn’t. I just backed up and went towards the tree at a different angle.  Once we got past our first obstacle, I knew there would be many more to come. There were trees down everywhere and huge patches of mud. I was in front and saw a divot in the ground about one foot away. I told Zoey “pull back,” but she didn’t, when I stepped into the divot all of the weight from the canoe suddenly fell on me and I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless. I was on my back with my pack pulling me to the ground and a canoe on top of me.

As soon as I realized what happened, I sprung up and said, “Let’s try again”.

She immediately began to protest.  

“We should wait for a counselor,” she said. “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Please try,” I said, doing my best to sound encouraging.

Attempt one failed. We didn’t get the canoe even up to our knees. I felt a wave a hopelessness wash over me, but I pushed it away.  Attempt two was no better. Zoey again was insisting that we couldn’t do this without more help, but I felt like we had to keep going or the day would never end. By the fourth attempt, Zoey may have figured out how stubborn I was, and we managed to get the canoe back in position above our heads. I felt a little bit of relief. At least at this moment,  I would not be defeated by Zoey or the portage.

We started walking again. I was telling myself to just breathe and not freak out, and I nearly had myself convinced that things would be okay. My thoughts were brought to a screeching halt when, again, I found myself on the ground like a stranded turtle with a canoe on top of me. That was when I lost it. Tears were streaming down my face, slow at first but rapidly increasing. My head was spinning trying to find out why I was crying, I was not physically hurt, and I thought that I had gotten my emotions under control, but I didn’t have any time to think about it. I had to finish, so again I forced Zoey to keep going. She resisted even more this time but eventually, I convinced her that we had to keep going.  I would like to say that we finished the portage in silence, but in reality, Zoey was silent, and I was sobbing.

By the time we caught up with everyone else, I couldn’t control myself. I felt like my body was breaking down. I could barely breathe, and it seemed like I was never going to be able to stop crying. One of my counselors offered to take my spot and finish the portage. I whispered “I’m good,” in between sobs.  I tried to sound calm but I knew that there was more than a hint of anger in my voice. I had no idea why I was so determined to finish such a miserable experience, but I was. I had to finish. I could not be defeated. When we finally put the canoe down at the end of the portage, I felt like the weight of the world had just been lifted off my shoulders and was able to quickly calm myself down.

At the end of the canoe trip, when we got back to camp, my counselor told me that she was so sorry for putting Zoey with me, joking that Zoey “broke me”. She basically did break me. She tested my limits, but she also taught me so much about myself. Looking back, I am not upset with the experience I had because now that breakdown is part of me and has helped me become who I am today.

Flunked… Dunked… Kerplunked… Thoughts on lost trunks

By Benjamin C. Fligelman

How had this happened? My mind was racing 10,000 miles a minute. As I looked into the distance, the neighboring boat’s occupants were erupting into peals of laughter. What is going on? My eyes searched around for a clue. Then I looked nearby at the boat that had been dragging my tube. My tube mates seemed to also see something funny, but I only had a hunch. They think it’s funny because I can’t hold onto a tube… well when I get back on that tube, I’ll show them! Then I gazed only a few feet away and my thoughts of revenge were shattered like a stone hitting a window. Six feet away, I spotted something, a sight to behold, my swim trunks were swimming.

The August sun had been bright when I had awoken. I was As calm as a sleeping lamb. Alas, such calm was to be broken when I spotted the digital clock that sat omnipresent beside my bed. It was 9:07. I looked around, my two cousins were gone. Even worse, I spotted something on my cousin Meghan’s bed… her phone. She never went anywhere without it, except for one place. Water Skiing.  How dare they ski without me! I dressed with fervour, with such haste in fact, I entirely ignored putting on a shirt hopping only into my swim trunks, and running outside, and there before my eyes was a horrid site… the ski boat wasn’t tied up. THEY HAD GONE WITHOUT ME!! I raged and shouted and screamed until my eyes were wet with tears. I ignored any idea of breakfast shunning the rye toast sitting before me, leaving to search for my cousins. As I ran along, I felt anger bubble up inside of me. They would cry before I was done with my sermon of rage. I sprinted through the forest on pure adrenaline. When I eventually arrived at my position, an unused dock, I lay in wait for their boat. Just for a short while I thought.

“Ben… is that you?” I flipped over from where I had been “watching” for boats. When I finally blinked the sleep from my eyes, I could see the twins, Hudson and Isabel Failia. When my cousins were away they were my best friends. Our personalities complimented each other, and we were close in age. Therefore I counted them amongst my few friends at the lake.

“True! The figure you see before you is I, Ben Fligelman of the River!” I said, putting on one of the humorous airs that was my trademark. Soon we fell into conversation and made our way to their home. As we entered their door, Isabel said something that made my ears perk up.

“Oh, yeah, and our old tube died,  Hudson pop–” he cut her off with a kick in the shin.

“Izzy, do you want to show Ben the new tube?” Hudson said.

“Okay…” Isabel replied, rubbing her shin. The tube was glorious, and we could not find a single thing wrong with it. Yet. At that very moment my “villainous” cousins Meghan and Jack arrived, fresh off a ski set. But they wanted more, and if they couldn’t ski, they would tube.

My soul felt as if a fire had been lit under it, almost as if my heart had been torn asunder! My inner dialogue shouted, every part of me protesting,

“No! No way!” my mind finally bleeding outward into my voice. Seeing everyone’s confused expressions and realizing the pinch I was in, I walked up to Jack and said, “Sorry to say it, but the boat can only fit six people.” Then putting my hand on his shoulder while smiling, I added “And you sure aren’t going to be one of them!” Then I gave him an almighty shove. He staggered back once… twice… and SPLASH!! Into the lake he went. I smiled in joyful ecstasy… until I realized what I had just done. Jack was already climbing back onto the dock. I couldn’t let him toss me in, I knew not what to do.

“Now, now, children,” said Mr. Failia, taking control of the situation, “it is clear that all of you want to go tubing, but I think that Meghan here can take one for the team and not go today.” Meghan was about to say something when Mr. Failia started up the boat — it was too late — Meghan was left in the dust. When we reached the center of the lake, Hudson and Isabel hopped on the new tube. Just as they began, the tube flipped sending then both off causing twin splashes. Izzy wanted no more of this, as any sane person would. But Hudson, however, was not sane.

“I know this new tube is a little temperamental, but I’m sure I can handle it,” he said, throwing all caution to the wind. As for Jack and me, we thought that it had been a bit of bad luck. So we hopped onto the tube. Jack immediately took the middle out of sheer paranoia that I’d push him off. I didn’t care: the tube was glorious. And so we were off, this new contraption was executing turns the old tube could only have dreamed of making. And as we sped on I was happy, and life was pure.

Just then a shout jumped from Hudson’s lips. “My Dad is pulling in for a buttered roll… HANG ON!” (A buttered roll being several circles made by the boat to intentionally throw off the riders.) Sadly, no one noticed the tube’s flaw. A smaller surface area made it far easier to fall off. And because this was the tubes first buttered roll, no one knew that this would happen.

“JACK!! HELP ME!” I screamed. But sadly the boat was on a clockwise turn, and Jack and Hudson were the ones bearing down on me. Another wake came. The sun was in my eyes. Spray kicking up from my foot created a small rainbow. Everything moved in slow motion. My grip loosened, and I was only half on the tube, skipping like a stone across the water. Suddenly the boat’s own monstrous wake came smashing into our tube. As the shock rippled through me, I began to fall from the tube. I was as powerless as a ragdoll in the hands of a sadistic child.

“JACK!! LET ME USE YOUR SECOND HOLD… PLEASE!!” I pleaded. His jaw tightened, and he ignored me. This was revenge for pushing him in. Suddenly another wake came upon me. I gritted my teeth as the water swept over me; I skipped one last time. Then, falling like an angel from heaven, I smashed into the water.  

I arose from the water like a dolphin, I felt Mr. Failia’s lukewarm jibes as I slowly swam back and retrieved my wayward trunks,

Clamoring back onto the boat, I heard what I dreaded. “You must have no grip on reality if you think those pants will stay on your hips.” Bad jokes. And unlike my soaking body, my well of witty comebacks was dry. I sat down, and as the tubing went on without me I thought of many things. I thought of the constant stream of jokes that I would endure for the rest of the summer. The fact that even when I didn’t want them, I would be served seconds. I thought about my blessing, that tiny insight into the human soul. How when we take life too fast and forget to think things over, there will always be consequences. They might be humorous, like losing your pants, only a small cut, but there is always the chance of a serious wound. Just then, flying across the waves, I should’ve felt as free as a bird. Instead I felt as if 10,000 pounds had been thrust upon my back. This was the burden of responsibility, to go slowly and carefully: not jumping ahead like a jackrabbit on Adderall; taking a look before the leap, and making good on these very promises to myself. With all of this in mind, I chuckled. For some it had been a humorous moment, for others, perhaps, revenge. For me, it was a lesson to be learned. So when Mrs. Failia, asked me, “Ben, are you sure you don’t want to keep on tubing?”

I responded, “No, I think I’ll stay here. I have a lot to think about.” More than they would ever know.

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