Memories of Second Grade


I was talking to my students the other day about their first memories. It is hard to know what you remember, what you have seen in a picture, or what someone has told you. Some remembered a time they were hurt, or being scared. I have a strong memory of getting my tonsils out at a very young age.

When I read this poem it took me right back to Sunnyside School, second grade, and a walk around the neighborhood in October. We went leaf collecting. What I think we did was iron them in wax paper, but maybe my memory is closer to the author's below.


Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,   

and some the shade of potatoes—   

some had been moth-eaten   

or spotted, the maples   

were starched, and crackled   

like campfire.   


We put them under tracing paper   

and rubbed our crayons   

over them, X-raying   

the spread of their bones   

and black, veined catacombs.   


We colored them green and brown   

and orange, and   

cut them out along the edges,   

labeling them deciduous   

or evergreen.   


All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,   

with its cockeyed globe,   

and nautical maps of ocean floors,   

I watched those leaves   


lost in their own worlds   

flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:   

without branches or roots,   

or even a sky to hold on to.

 Judith Harris

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