B1 Intermediate US 501 Folder Collection
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[whistling]
  
Two, one, four. Two, eight, two. Seven, seven, zero, one.
That's the cell.
You can leave a message on the home phone, but I'm rarely there, so why bother?
Just call on the cell.
[clearing throat]
Sitting at my desk, years back, I realized all of sudden,
I was gettin' ready to make one of those horrible mistakes a storyteller always hates to make.
I was about to forget performance.
One of those afterschool ones, starts about 3:30pm in the afternoon.
I jumped up from my desk when I realized what I was doing and I ran for the bathroom.
And there was my little grandson that I was raising.
One-bathroom house.
Christopher, who had only recently graduated from trainer pants
to what he thought of as big boy underwear was ensconced on the porcelain throne.
I came running in the door and I said, "I'm not looking at you.
"And you don't have to look at me.
"You can pretend like I'm not there, but Granny has to get ready to go to a gig."
He didn't say a word. He's looking down between his legs.
I said, "Just pretend I'm not here."
And-and I've gotta brush my teeth, I've got to go.
I'm scrubbing away at my teeth and I hear this little voice say, "I have grapes."
[audience laughing]
I thought, "Well, being raised by a woman, it's entirely possible
"that there are parts of his anatomy for whom-for which he has no words yet.
"I have to fix that, but not right now.
"I'll tend to that tomorrow. Right now, I've gotta get out of here."
I keep on brushing my teeth, he says, "Pretty grapes."
I thought, "Well, he's proud of his body, that's a plus."
He says, "I have an apple, too."
I went...
[audience laughing]
He was very carefully examining his Fruit of the Loom underwear.
[audience laughing]
But even when it's the second generation you have raised, they grow up so fast.
That in the blink of an eye it seemed to me that he was leaving home.
No, it didn't seem to me like he was leaving home. He was really leaving home.
It seemed like it had been the blink of an eye.
I never had a child leave home before.
Not really leave home.
The generation before him, they just rolled out the door,
down the street, half a block or so
and took up residence quickly enough and soon enough and close enough,
that they could just come home and raid the refrigerator and use my washing machine.
[audience laughing]
I never had a child really leave home.
I was unprepared.
  
I wondered why we have all those stories about Jack going to seek his fortune
and not a single story about his mama stayin' behind.
Why is that, I wonder?
Hm...and so, Christopher, who had gotten a wonderful graduate assistanceship
at the University of Tennessee, rented the biggest U-Haul truck they make and behind it,
he attached a flat-bed trailer on which he was hauling his car.
And the end result of that was longer than the average 18-wheeler.
And having never having driven a truck before in his entire life,
but with the absolute certainty of a young man in his twenties,
he got on the interstate and set off from Dallas, Texas
to Knoxville, Tennessee without a backward glance.
We had the biggest fight we've ever had in our lives just as he was going out the door
over whether or not he should take the paperwork
for the rental truck with him on the trip.
And because I am who I am, when he went to the bathroom one last time,
I sneaked out to the truck, opened the glove compartment
and stuffed the paperwork in and then ran.
[audience laughing]
So, I's standing on the front porch and butter wouldn't melt in my life-my mouth
by the time he came out and got in his car and I watched him drive away.
Five hours later the phone rang.
"Granny?"
"Yes, Chris?"
"The truck has a flat, what do I do?"
"Well, if you open the glove compartment, you will find the paperwork for the rental
"and on the bottom there is an 800 number
"and if you call that number they will come and change the tire.
"That's their responsibility."
"Oh! Cool!"
Click.
[audience laughing]
And so, because I thought it was more dignified to write a poem,
than it was to run after that truck.
I wrote this that day.
And so Jack goes to seek his fortune.
His mama stands and waves him out of sight.
Child of her old age, an unbidden gift.
She sheds no tear until he moves beyond that first bend in his bright road.
He is a good boy.
And knows those things that can be taught by telling, 9 nines are 81.
"Yes, ma'am", "No, sir" and where those elbows do not go.
She has seen to that.
But does he know those things you cannot tell, but only teach by living?
How forgiveness and gratitude can flow across your heart like water over stone.
That a dream is always worth the risk.
And can he learn to love himself enough to make a sweet life...
in that new place?
A place she cannot go.
A place he will soon call home.
Thank you.
[audience clapping]
[instrumental music]
  
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Elizabeth Ellis at MCC-Maple Woods 11/3/2010

501 Folder Collection
baby published on November 14, 2015
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