Great Gatsby Plot Breakdown

As a teenager, I kept the Journals of F. Scott Fitzgerald by my bed. If I couldn’t sleep, I reread and memorized his phrases. So, when my high school sophomore – a passionate reader – flipped out when reading his summer AP Seminar assignment, I was shocked. I mean, what’s not to like about The Great Gatsby?

“Another lame party at the mansion, Jay? No wonder Daisy doesn’t come! They’re boring!”

What?!

“Oooh, you’re Daisy’s cousin? How about you invite her over, and I’ll just happen to stop by, and say remember when we were 17…” 

Don’t all teenage readers worship Fitzgerald?

“No one really cares that Tom is cheating on her except Nick, and he’s a loser.”

It’s a commentary on the 1920s.

“A decade of losers then.”

Great American novel torn to pieces at the kitchen counter for two straight days. I may have to reread Gatsby to like it again.

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Kidnapping Plot on the Grand Canyon

I learned a lot about my eleven-year-old son this summer. The youngest member of a 25-person rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, led by four guides.

I had worried he was too small for whitewater. Silly mom.

The first to ride at the front of the boat. To take the big waves. Yelling at the river to bring it on.

On the trails with the nimble teenagers. What cliff? What slippery edge?

Launcher of river battles. The first to fire the water gun at the other boat.

Pulling his weight in the fire-line to unload and set up camp.

The other boat was filled with adults. Surprised when he stormed it to steal their weapons as we pushed off from the narrow beach. A little guy with a war cry.

The record-breaker swimming the rapids. “One more time?” as everyone else followed the guides’ call back to the boats.

The first to jump off waterfalls. To drive the raft.

A calming guide to “put your foot there” for the adults trying the jump he’d already done ten times.

An adventurer. Fun. A leader. A warrior. At home in the raging waters.

The other boat plotted to kidnap him. They envied his spirit. Wanted him for themselves. Named him MVB, most valuable boater.

I am so grateful for his week in the sun. 

If You Were a Monarch

“If you were a monarch, what would your portrait pose be?” 

Sometimes it takes my brain a minute to confirm that yes, that’s the out-of-the-blue question I just heard.

So our sixteen year old positioned into his own pose. Feet crossed. Arm resting on the back of a stool. Chin raised. Very royal.

He looked at me expectantly. Grabbed his phone and pulled up Louis XVI in a lavish cloak. Tweaked his own pose. “This is my favorite.”

“Ummmm…..”

“Elizabeth and Victoria have good ones….” he suggested.

His Dad didn’t miss a beat. “Sword raised. On a horse.” 

A Trip to the Bank

I brought our 16-year-old to get a cashier’s check to pay the auto repair shop for damage he inflicted on his car. When we walked inside the bank, he whispered, “This is so nice!”

It’s a regular bank branch. Large. Corporate looking. Nothing fancy. Muted elevator music. 

Still half-way across the room, a friendly teller called out, “How can I help you?”

The only other teller disappeared. The chairs opposite the financial experts who get their own desks were all empty.

I thought how absolutely bored they must be. The teller. The financial expert. 9 to 5. The white sound of air conditioning. An occasional customer. Then back to the quiet in that big room.

The smiling teller handed us the check.

Then with a last sweeping look, my son sighed, “What a nice place to work. It’s so peaceful.”

“All the World’s a Stage”

Yesterday, when our son came from backstage after the 5thgrade performance of Hello Shakespeare, he beamed. A look of joyful pride I’d never seen in him before. Not ever.

And grinning ear-to-ear, he hugged me as if his emotion was too great not to share.

It’s been a tough school year. Academically. Mostly socially. Many days, he comes home quiet. Goes to his room to draw maps or write in his journal. 

I keep thinking that he just needs to feel good at something. Some positive feedback coming from the universe.

Then yesterday, he was a natural Will Shakespeare. A fun-loving ham. As the curtain closed, and the other kids headed off stage, he remained, tossing his bowler hat in the air, smiling at the audience, soaking it in, drawing the moment out a few more seconds.

The happiest, I think, he has ever been.

At least for a day, he found his world’s the stage.

Exam Anxiety…. or Not?

“Mom,” he said on Wednesday when I called to make sure our 16-year-old was home safely, “you’re going to be sooooo mad at me.”

My heart skipped a beat. “What happened?”

“Well, my APUSH teacher doesn’t believe in giving an exam after you take the AP Test, so…”

Oh no.

“…he always gives it early, and….”

Not again.

“I forgot. It was on Monday.”

All those high school stress dreams flashed through my head. Showing up on exam day having not studied. Never having shown up to class. Can’t find the classroom. Wearing only underwear. “You forgot an exam?”

Seriously? 

“It was fine.”

“Fine?!”

“I got an A.”

His brother, hearing the story later, looked at him like he had two heads. And horns. “You forgot you had an exam? How does that happen?”

Apparently, this teenager missed the memo about his “anxiety-ridden” generation… oh, yeah, the one about the exam too.

First Tracks

Powder days on the mountain, my husband gets everyone up early so the boys can get first in line at the chair lift. I thought it was about the feel of your skis, invisible to you, gliding under deep snow. 

But today was a bluebird day. The sky Easter egg blue. Not a cloud to be seen. Sunny, warm. It’s been snowing for weeks. 

I took a long walk that criss-crossed the stream, through the village, down quiet roads lined with aspens and open fields of untouched snow – golf courses in another month.

Untouched snow that draws you in. Be the first, it whispers to you. Be the only. Ever.

Because I am beautiful, and I will melt soon.

New fallen snow is one of the only places on earth where no one has been or touched before.

I couldn’t help myself. First tracks. Wrote my name in the snow. First and only.