A is for…

September 28, 2011 § 16 Comments

Want an easy organizing principle for a picture book?  Look no further than the good old alphabet.

A is for aardvark. B is for baboon.

I sometimes assign the creation of an “A is for…” alphabet to adult writers as an exercise. Each must choose a subject to give that humble list shape:

“Words Sixth Graders Think are Really Funny.” Anyone care to guess what “F” is for? Hint: it has four letters one of which is not U.

One of the frequent commenters on this blog, MLS, made an alphabet of Portuguese words which she then explained in English. She left me jealous of those who write in Portuguese; with a single word they can express the sentiments of the heart.

Susan, a veteran teacher wrote an alphabet of students she had loved. B is for Bertha–she had a baby last year–adorable little boy–she had to do some classes online but she graduated and got a full ride to college. F is for Female, pronounced Fee-Ma-Lee. Her mother said the hospital named her.

Here is my alphabet.  It’s an alphabet of self. Next time I might do one about dogs or ways to kill ten minutes, but here it is, an alphabetical version of me. What amazes me is how contradictory it is, and at the same time how true.

A is for Attracted: Life is the porch light. I am the moth.

B is for Bereft: Their hats hang on nails. My mother’s straw, my dad’s knit beanie. Both parents are gone. Orphaned at 55.

C is for Cocky: Yes, I am all that, plus a side of fries.

D is for Docile: If you know me you’ve probably noticed, I nod in agreement a lot.

E is for Earnest: As earnest as a dog. Look in my eyes and see my heart. No irony, no subtext.

F is for Forgetful: Things set down trail out behind me, never to be found again.

G is for Grateful: For all that has been and for whatever may come, thank you.

H is for Habitual: Every morning the same heavy white china mug warms my hands.

I is for Insignificant: Less than a grain of salt spilled on a tablecloth.

J is for Jumpity: If I sit at this computer one more minute I’ll scream! Wish I had a screen door that would slap shut behind me to announce my escape into the real world.

K is for Knotted: Change is hard, and so I remain, knotted.

L is for Local: I can name any kid, any dog anywhere in the few square blocks of my neighborhood. Local is the only scale I can manage and care about and effect.

M is for Mortal: I watch the spectacle of my own aging, an interested observer–I now know what goes first.

N is for Needy: I crave your company, consume your words like bread.

O is for Ozonated: My early report cards all said: Adrian needs to stop daydreaming and concentrate! Lucky for me I no longer get report cards.

P is for Present: Now is the slant of sunlight on a hard wood floor.

Q is for Questing: After what? I don’t know, but it’s there, just out of reach.

R is for Romantic: Before I draw my next breath my life will irrevocably and forever transform!

S is for Singing: Life’s sound track runs without pause; Go, Go Johnny B Good!

T is for Treasured: Lucky to have been loved all my life, passed from hand to hand like I was worth something.

U is for Unknown: Always in translation, understood only through the unreliable witness of my words.

V is for Vulnerable: Holy crap, I hope nobody catches on–I’m still eleven in here.

W is for Wordy: Let me put that another way…

X is for Xuberant: Rope my ankle before I float away! Rope in hand you can parade me down 5th Avenue.

Y is for Yearning: Seeking its heat I lean toward life, not always wise about keeping a safe distance.

Z is for Zero: The sum of myself. Hopeful and afraid. Kind and selfish. Vocal and silent. I exist at the point of balance.

But enough about me. Give me a few of the A, B, Cs of U.

Tagged: , , , , ,

§ 16 Responses to A is for…

  • craig reeder says:

    Uh oh, if you’ve been consuming my words like bread, you’re gonna need an alka-seltzer
    or 2


  • I am –
    borrowing J, Jumpity for easily distracted – took too many photos of a green lizard on my yellow clothesline this morning when I should have been writing
    borrowing G, Grateful & Gratitude, for Adrian’s Slow Dance Journal, Adrian’s Aid, Adrians Ade
    borrowing A, Attracted to information & ideas to the point of distraction (see Jumpity.)

    Lovely writing exercise (Fee-ma-lee! babies having babies…) & fine responses from your talented students. Many thanks.


  • You are also: G for Generous, K for Kind, and S for Smart.

    By the way, Ray smiled when I read your comment to him. He spends much of his time photographing lizards on clothes lines as well.


  • A for amiable. Unless you get my back up.

    B for baffled. By cruelty. By jealousy. By bigotry. –Seriously, life is so beautiful, why screw it up?

    C for cautious. When the last hurricane was barreling toward us, Jim said the main threat to the neighborhood was the huge mound of canned food shrapnel I’d assembled.

    D? That would be determined, #1 requirement for a writer.

    E for exasperated by my inability to make an edible pie crust.


  • I can help you with the pie crust–crust is one of my speshealities. You can help me be better prepared. Come a storm about all we’d have to eat is pie crust.


    • We can open a can of fruit, sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon and lemon, and grill a pie (I stockpile charcoal also).


      • Open fire cooking – mmm good! For pies, build a reflector “oven” with heavy duty aluminum foil on three sides of a cooling rack, then set the pie on the rack just off the fire with the open side toward the fire (rotate the pie occasionally to let it bake on all sides).

        May not brown on top – may “blacken” a bit on the bottom, but when the fruit bubbles through the top and sides you know it’s time to chow down! (blow on it first!)

        Oh, and S is for Silence – I’m sitting in a retreat cabin on the side of a mountain near the Great Smokey Mountain National Park – absolutely NO traffic noise, just a slight russling of the wind in the pines – H is for heaven!



  • Sue Grafton made a career writing murder mysteries by the alphabet.


  • Thanks for the tip, Mary Lois. Now you have Adrian and me almost hoping for that hurricane. We recently had @ 15 of our daughter’s friends over for dinner. Fifteen minutes after they arrived, the electricity blacked out and stayed out for 6 hours. (G is for grimace). It is amazing what you can grill in a pinch (W is for Winging It). We ate in courses, and honestly, that cornbread baked in an old iron skillet on the grill was the best we’ve ever eaten. And corn on the cob grilled in the husks? That would be C for culinary nirvana.


  • Josie says:

    This was way more poetic and poignant than the mom I know!

    But I don’t really see the “C is for cocky” part of your personality, and that’s what contradicts the rest of your list. I think it’s more like “C is for confident.” You know what you can do and you do it well.

    Oh, and I suspect we’re all about 11 on the inside…and some of us more like 3.


    • “Cocky” was probably literary over-the-topness. Okay, so cancel the side of fries.

      And moms rarely come across as poignant or poetic to their children. Instead they are quickly classified as plain vanilla–you’ll see.

      But trust me, I am totally poignant and poetic. Totally.


  • What a great exercise. I may be borrowing this one soon.


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