'What is an eight-letter word for love?'Below is an essay written by Caroline Sprague, 13, a seventh-grader at Woodside Elementary School. She's writing about a time when she was 8 years old and visiting her grandmother (called Mamou) back East. The essay, limited to 250 words and titled, "Grape Jelly," was submitted for publication in an anthology, "Celebrating What Is Important to Me," published by Creative Communications. Recently, she was named one of the top 10 writers (from among thousands) in her grade division and was awarded a $50 U.S. savings bond and a complimentary copy of the anthology in which her essay will be published.
"When I was your age." That's how every conversation would begin. Except unlike many grandmothers, her stories were filled with laughter.
That's what I remember about her. And the oranges: the image of her sitting on the blue couch, newspaper in one hand, orange in the other, ready to tell a story. I would come down every morning, and she'd ask me, "What's an eight-letter word for love?" As if I'd actually know at 8.
In the late morning, she'd take me out into her backyard, where I would go searching for bugs and butterflies. If I saw one, I'd take one of her grape jelly jars, trying to catch one. If I did (and that was not often), she'd tell me to leave it on the patio and go inside. She'd say, "Just be a minute." From the window I'd watch her as she opened the jar, saving whatever poor creature I'd kidnapped.
Every summer, the grapes ripened on her patio. She'd take me outside into the humid Maryland air and lift me up so that I could pick them. Then, she'd turn them into preserves and pack them into jars labeled "Mamou's Grape Jelly."
But the time must come for everyone to pass, and so she did. A year later, I was on the Internet. I found myself typing into the search box, "eight-letter word for love." The answer: devotion. And devoted she was.
Caroline also has a poem being published this winter in "Inklings Book 2010," an anthology distributed by the local writing workshop, Society for Young Inklings.