My students recently wrapped up a memoir-writing unit, and as I try to do as often as I can, I wrote along with them. My piece this year was called The Creek, and it was about a time when I was 7 or 8, and my younger brother and I walked home along a tiny stream that ran from the school to the end of our street, something that we were forbidden from doing.
On the way we found a little plastic bucket and filled it up with tadpoles and then cooked up a ridiculous lie about finding the pail full of tiny amphibians on the sidewalk. Not wanting to leave them to die (and not allowed to return them to the creek), we just had to bring them home-- that was our story anyway. It's hardly surprising that my mother didn't believe us, although she was tipped off by the neighborhood tattle-tale. (Michelle Hall, if you're out there, I haven't forgotten your treachery.) We got in a lot of trouble, but the tadpoles got it worse: my mother dumped them out into the garden.
It is this final, fatal detail that seemed most memorable to the kids in my class, and when I happened to mention that my mother would be in town this weekend, they suggested I bring her in on Monday. "Really?" I asked. "You want to meet my mother?"
"No," one student answered, "we want to put on her on trial for killing those tadpoles."