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Author's note: This isn't really a book.... I just figured it was too long for the regular memoir section!
To begin writing a story of one’s own life, in my humble opinion, is a monumental task greater than any type of literature in this scholarly world. In nonfiction, the events are told exactly how they happened, with no regard to personal emotion at that particular moment. For instance, I could portray the day my brother came to me as if I was a bystander, simply watching from the sidelines, not necessarily caring how the story turned out. The date was August 23, 1999. The little girl stood at the door. She twirled her blond ringlet with one hand, and smoothed her flowered dress rhythmically with the other. Even though it was summer, her breath fogged up the glass of the screen door as she waited. She stood, perfectly solitary, for nearly twenty minutes. With all due respect toward acclaimed poets, all you really have to do to get the message across in poetry is to throw a few words together that have a particular redundancy about them. She stood quietly, gazing at the street, it was her brother she was waiting to meet. She stood quietly, Fogging up the glass, silently hoping that their car would pass. She stood quietly. Fiction is a particularly simple form of writing. If you don’t like something, you can change it. You can give the characters ridiculous names, you can choose where the story happened, and, in a way, writing fiction is like being God to a group of people you have complete control over. Shirley’s head was spinning. She wasn’t sure how long she had stood there, waiting. All she wanted was to see him, to meet her baby brother. They had shown her the picture. They had gone to get him. She hadn’t met him yet, but she already loved him. The definition of the word memoir is the account of personal experiences of the author. The reason that writing a memoir is so difficult is because you not only have to capture the emotion, but you have to make the reader feel the emotion as strongly as you did. One thing I fear as I write this is that I will recount something incorrectly, or that I will change one minute detail, causing my false telling to forever weigh heavily upon my conscience. I’m afraid. Whether you are my peers, my teachers, my friends, or my enemies, you are judging me. Whether you mean to or not, you are judging me. You are judging my ability to write what has happened to me in my lifetime. You are judging my actions and reactions, whether good or bad, as I go through my life. You are subconsciously waiting to see what I will do or see what I will say. Because this is not a work of fiction, or a textbook on people that lived hundreds of years ago, or a book of poetry that you can pretend to not understand. This is a story by me, Mikaela Ruth S, about me, Mikaela Ruth S. The girl you think you know. The girl you may talk about behind her back. The girl you may think of as a know-it-all who asks questions and gives answers. The girl you really don’t have a clue about. This is a record of me, the real me, the one who doesn’t care what people think of her. The girl who is an individual. A red and gray suburban pulled up the driveway, and I sucked in my breath. My grandparents came up behind me and pushed open the screen door. I stepped out tentatively on the step, and waited. Mommy and Daddy opened their doors simultaneously, and my dad come over to me. He enveloped me in a hug, and by the time he pulled away, I could see him. He was in my mother’s arms. A little Russian baby, dark haired and light skinned, wearing a little pair of colorful overalls and a sleepy smile. I raced over to Mommy, screaming at the top of my lungs, “My brother, my brother!” I leapt into my mother’s arms, so that she staggered slightly with the weight of both of us, and I hugged Andrei tightly. He was a complete stranger to me at the time, but I hugged him like he was my best friend. My mom set us both down, and she held Andrei’s hands as he teetered toward the steps. On the third step, I lifted him up, and, not being able to hold his weight, nearly dropped Andrei off the edge of the stairs. That is my first clear memory.
Last year, I wrote an account of one of the next memories that is embedded into my memory. Not a single memory, more of a collection of memories pertaining to one person-my father’s father. I was very proud of it, but a teacher, attempting to “edit it” forced me to cut my masterpiece down to only two hundred and fifty words. I was not nearly as happy with the outcome. Later, I submitted the uncut version to Teen Ink, an online writing website and magazine for teens. It has been featured on the homepage seven times, four hundred and twelve people have read it, twenty three people have left positive comments, and forty seven people have given it a rating of five out of five stars. So there!
My grandfather, whom I called Binka, lived in an apartment in Bridgeton before he died. It was in a very quiet community, with neatly trimmed grass and white picket fences. He lived on the first of three floors because his old, weathered bones couldn’t mount the stairs any longer. Every time we visited him, his dentured-smile greeted us with pure pleasure, and his hugs enveloped me in the rich smells of aftershave and lotion. He would hold me tight, even though it hurt him to bend down to reach my level, but he loved me as much as anything.
Binka was sick for a long time. He had to go to dialysis at the hospital, and my father and I would sit in the stiff waiting room chairs and wait for him. My feet would dangle, not able to touch the floor, and when Binka come home with us, he would sit stiffer and seemed even more tired than before. When my Binka went into the hospital, my whole family was grim, waiting for a phone call, but at the same time hoping that the phone would remain permanently silent.
He came home after a while, but it didn’t last long. One day, his visiting nurse entered the apartment, calling his name, but Binka didn’t answer. He had died peacefully in his last restful sleep.
That apartment, however, was not where my fondest memories of Binka occurred. The apartment which I favored most was in Brooklyn. It probably still stands there, on the busy city street, crammed with the cacophony of sounds of the day-to-day city life. The pulsing beat of a manhole cover rattling, a stereo pounding, or a dance class thumping fill the city until it explodes in a wonderland of culture and the beauty of every color imaginable.
The memories of fun times in Binka’s apartment are innumerable. I can still recall the day that Binka, Daddy and I went down to the joint garage below his apartment. He led me, in the musty darkness of the garage, to an object covered with a plastic tarp. Uncovering it with a flourish, he revealed a shiny pink tricycle. The only thing that I had time to do before wheeling around in giddy patterns was give Binka a quick hug.
The apartment was a good size, and it had a guest bedroom that overlooked the entire city. At dusk, the city was etched into the sky as if with a whittling knife, with definite lines and strokes tracing the blackened buildings against the settling sun. But the grandest sight, by far, was the mountainous tower of the Empire State Building. I would see the twinkling lights blinking in odd, unpredictable patterns, as enchanting as the uncountable stars in the sky. At night, when the rest of the city seemed to be eaten up in the darkness of twilight, I’d gaze out of the curtained window, peering at the pinpoints of light. In December, the entire tower was lit with a warm, white glow, bathed in the loving brightness of the decorations.
When I think of my Binka, I try not to remember our last times together, when he was sick and weak. I attempt to remember the times when I got my tricycle, or when we sat at the windowsill in his apartment, three generations, Binka, Daddy and me, side-by-side, gazing out at Binka’s view.
What did you think? Perhaps, sitting there, grading this, judging this, sitting on the
edge of your seat reading this, you said aloud, “Oh, what a fantastic writer that girl is! How could that teacher have possibly asked her to edit it?” Or, perhaps you, like her, think that it was entirely too lengthy, and you agreed with her wholeheartedly that my mountainous five hundred and seventy-word essay should be trimmed, prodded, and compacted to a meager two hundred and forty seven words. Apparently the four hundred and some people who have appreciated my essay believed it to be wonderful just the way it was.
Just in case you, whoever is reading this, think that my life is easy, think that I am one of those vapid girls that thinks of nothing but boys and make up, you’re wrong. In two and a half years, I had nine relatives die. When I walk around the school moping, and you think to yourself, judging me once again, that I’m just being a moody school girl with no friends and no life, there’s usually a reason. I miss them, each and every one of them. I loved them, whether I remember them from my own experiences, or from the shreds of my history that I have gathered from my family over the years.
First, in 1999, one month before my parents left to adopt my brother from Russia, my PopPop died. He too young, only sixty three, and a heart attack left my mommom, mother, aunts and uncles in a state of dysfunctional, disheveled disrepair. I have one distinct memory of him, though I remember hardly anything about him. I was only two and a half at that point. I remember sitting on his lap in the recliner he loved so much, and I remember him laughing. It was contagious, his laugh. He smoked for much of his life, so he had one of those low, raspy laughs that sounded like it came right from his toes. His belly would shake, bouncing me up and down, and I remember that I would laugh, my high-pitched giggle mingling with his low-pitched roar. I don’t remember the day he died, or the day I realized that I would never again sit on his lap and feel his long beard tickle my head as he laughed at things I didn’t yet understand.
And then there was PopPop George. I recall his house more than anything else about him. His living room, specifically. I don’t remember the color of the paint on the walls, the number of windows in the room, the color of the carpet, or even if there was a carpet. I recollect one particular cabinet, a dark wooden one, on the same side of the room as the recliner, the beat up arm chair that PopPop George loved so much. I would always rummage through the depths of the cavern of wonders--toys and books and games and movies and puzzles. I would select something, oftentimes a stuffed animal Curious George. I would climb up his knees, onto his lap, and hold the toy or game or puzzle or book and I would play pretend, content whether we talked or not. I could be there still, having a conversation. Now I would be too big to sit on his lap, so I would sit on the floor, gazing up at him, not caring how much time would pass, just sitting there, retaining the stories and love that would flow from his lips. I would ask him, for I’ve always been dying to know, what it was like being one of nineteen children. What it was like being farmed out to live with your older sister as soon as you could work. What it was like watching his children, then his grandchildren, and then his great-grandchildren grown up before his very eyes. Anything I could possibly think of to ask and for him to answer, for if he could answer, it would mean that he was still alive.
Grandpa Moishe emigrated from Belarus, a country on the outskirts of Russia, to Ellis Island. The year was 1925, and the ship was the Rotterdam, part of the Holland American line. Persecution of the Jews basically forced him out of his country. His father, Baruch, came over to America first, and later sent money to provide for Grandpa Moishe’s passage. At Ellis Island, his name was changed from Simonovich to Simon, the name my family has now kept for eighty-five years. I didn’t get to see him very often, but I do remember the last time I visited him in a nursing home. By that point, he was already very ill, and so he was asleep for most of the visit. We wheeled him into the courtyard, a flowery place, as I remember it, well-kempt with those paving bricks all around and stone benches for the visitors to sit on. I began to sing a song in Hebrew, “Hinei matovu mah na’yim, shevet al-chim gam yachad,” and as I began the refrain again, he began to sing with me, with his heavily accented voice. My father told me that it was one of the only times he was with it the entire visit. I only wish I remembered the singing, his voice, his face.
Uncle Herb was, in my mother’s words, the Halter Reunion King. The Halters are my mother’s mother’s side of the family. He lived for it. He built the Cohansey Store, and my family has always called it Uncle Herb’s Store, even though it has been closed for almost my entire life. He was also one of the nineteen children. Because my PopPop was farmed out, he didn’t grow up with my uncle Herb. They were nearly twenty years apart. They were more like cousins than brothers. Until they stood side by side and smiled.
I can’t count how many people have told me I was too young to remember it--to remember them. But I do. I remember the party--cousin Kenny was on crutches. It’s funny, because that’s all I remember ever calling him. Cousin Kenny. He was sitting on the couch in a pretty room, one that’s fancy and makes me think of country clubs and bathrooms with couches in them. A group of kids, all little, were sitting on the floor in front of him, a coffee table separating us. A glass bowl of jelly beans sat on the light colored wooden tabletop, and he kept reaching out and grabbing handfuls. He would toss up the handful, and then stand, teetering, on his uninjured led, swerving his head around to catch the small candies in his mouth. The ones he missed would rain down on us, causing us to screech and scatter momentarily, only to congregate once more in the exact same spot to watch cousin Kenny’s magnificent display.
Uncle Arthur was a dancer. He and his wife would whirl around the dance floor, and all I had to do was watch them to be content. I wanted to be like them, Aunt Susan’s dress swishing around with each step, Uncle Arthur’s leather shoes blurring with the speed of his dancing feet. I remember the day Uncle Arthur and cousin Kenny died as if it were yesterday. We were visiting friends in Great Falls, Virginia. The windows were open, and for fall, it was a nice day. As I recall, we were playing a board game, when the neighbor came out on his deck in nothing but a tank top and a pair of boxer shorts. He looked pained, and he asked the adults if they had heard what had happened. They said that they hadn’t, and he told them that they had to turn on the TV. He turned away, and he slid open the glass door that led back into the confinements of his house. My mom called out, “Can the kids watch?” And the man shook his head. The date was September 11, 2001. Both my uncle and cousin worked in the World Trade Center. Both perished on that fateful day.
Uncle Ted and Aunt Ida had one of those houses that just breathed rusticity. There were shelves along every wall, and there was stained wood everywhere you looked. The floors, the shelves, the rafters. There were things sitting on the rafters, stuffed animals, carving, old metal tools, shadow boxes. Their house, smelling of dust and decomposing wood, was a treasure trove. The one day I clearly remember at their house, Uncle Ted stood on a wooden stool and grabbed something down from the rafters. He handed it to Aunt Ida, who sat in a comfortable love seat. She then handed the item to me. It was a little figurine, a bear wearing a dress. The dress was a green jumper, and it wore a blue shirt underneath. The body was stuffed, but the head and the hands were brown porcelain. I have that doll still, and the day I got it, I named it Ida.
I’ve told you a little something about Binka already, but he has to be included. He was the person who ended the breakout of grief in my family. After he had been moved to Bridgeton, I got to see him more often. I used to beg my parents to not make me go to his house. As I grew older, his hugs started to reek rather than comfort. His house seemed to be less of an incredible wonderland and more of a cluttered wasteland. I wish I hadn’t resisted so much then. Now it weighs heavily on my conscience. The last time I remember visiting his apartment, I saw a teddy bear in a mug on a shelf. The teddy bear had a pair of spectacles on, and I thought it was just the cutest thing in the world. I pleaded with him to give it to me, but he just smiled and said, “Someday.” My birthday was coming up, after all. I never saw him again after that day. I have that bear. I got it when we were cleaning out the house after his death. I miss him each day when I look at the shelf above my light switch and see the little bear smiling at me through wire rimmed glasses.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to perform. In preschool, I was always the one you could hear at the Thanksgiving Luncheon. In first grade, I wasn’t afraid to do a solo at the holiday concert, and the year I turned eight, I became a part of “show business.” I joined the Off Broad Street Players Theater Company in 2004, with their theater camp. This past summer, I participated in my sixth annual summer camp, and I plan on going until my parents unfairly force me to get a summer job.
The happiest times I’ve had in my entire life have been when I was onstage or backstage. My best friends are from theater. In what I call the “regular world,” people are separated, as if some are royal and some are mere peasants. In the “theater world,” it’s as if all of the great civil rights activists have come together. In OBSP, all men and women and children are created equal. Not one person in theater is better than another. One person may have a better singing voice, or be better than acting, but every person can be themselves. You don’t have to wear the mask that you do in every day life. You can do or say whatever comes to your mind, and not be afraid that people are going to judge you. AH-HA!!!! Look what word comes into play once again. JUDGE. You know you’re being judged when there’s a pit in your stomach the size of the town of Shiloh. Granted, my home town may be only one square mile, but everything seems bigger in your stomach. Here’s where I pause and wait for you to laugh. Go ahead, let it out. I’m no comedian, but even serious I can crack a joke now and then. Okay, now that you’ve possibly fallen off of your chair, or, if you have a sense of humor the size of Shiloh (ba-dum-bum tshhhh), not, then let me continue. Judges are to be left in the courtroom.
I’ve never done a single thing in theater that I regretted. I hate having to hold back every impulse to start singing as I’m walking down the hall, or to start dancing while I’m in the middle of a crowd of people. I can be myself around the people I love the best. Also, with the Off Broad Street Players, every one is big on feeling good. I could’ve had the worst day ever, in the history of school. My friends take one look, and for the rest of the night, people are giving me hugs and telling me jokes that keep me laughing until the terrible day is just a distant memory.
Just last month, I was in A Christmas Carol. Now tell me, where else can you eat your dinner outside, after dark, at a high school, in a tree, with your best friend, and feel completely content? If you come up with an answer, I owe you a vigorous round of applause.
I have done twelve productions with the Off Broad Street Players. When I go through the playbills, I remember the face of every person that I have ever worked with. I may not know their last names by heart, but I have a shared memory with every one of them. Theater friends are friends for a lifetime.
Written By Alea Kim Nomis
Nomis takes the tale of Rumplestiltskin to a whole new level in this thrilling fairy tale about true love, triumph, and the way to get around barriers that separate all you’ve ever known and the infinite possibilities of the future.
If this were the summary on the back of a book on a shelf at eye level in Barnes and Noble, would you possibly pick it up and carry it up to the counter? Would you pay for it, content that you had gotten your money’s worth? Would you glide down the stairs to the coffee shop that resides within the building, order a take out cup of whatever was the crazy flavor of the day, and settle down at one of the square tables? Would you glance around to see if you knew anyone at the surrounding tables as your coffee cooled? Would you, not seeing anyone that you could talk to, open your plastic bag and retrieve Smithy’s Girl from it? Would you sit, as the time passed by, remaining in the same position, as customers came and left, not realizing that closing time was drawing nearer and nearer? Would you finally glance up as an announcement came over the speakers, saying that Barnes and Noble would be closing in five minutes? Would you be half way, three quarters of the way, or completely done the book? Would you step outside, in a muddled stupor, amazed that reality still exists when this book has taken you so far out of the realms of your life? Would you then take a sip of your coffee, amazed and befuddled that it has gotten so cold when, just a moment ago, it was too hot to sip?
This is what I want my novels to do. I want them to cause you to lose all sense of the real world, so that the world within the story becomes the real world, the only world. Smithy’s Girl is my current novel, and Alea Kim Nomis is my pseudonym, or my pen name. When I become a published author, I won’t use Mikaela Ruth Simon on the cover. I’ll Use Alea Kim Nomis. Alea Kim is Mikaela backwards, and Nomis is Simon backwards. It’s just by some chance of fate that my name is laden with vowels, and not a jumble of consonants. If my name was Jennifer Carll-Simon, for instance, and I used the same method, I’d have to use Refin Nej Nomis-Llrac, which makes no sense. Unless, of course, you were born in a different country. But since I was, indeed, born in this country, I am lucky that my name worked out.
Some of the most famous people in the country have used pen names. Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodore Geisel. Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Clemens. Bruno Mars’s real name is Peter Gene Hernandez. Jennifer Aniston’s real name is Jennifer Anistonapoulos. Usually, people only know the celebrities by their nome de plume, which is exactly the way I want it.
Since I was little, I have read anything I can get my hands on. Novels, short stories poetry, magazines, and, when I’m extremely bored, medicine bottles. It’s been said, by many trained professionals, that good readers make good writers. I suppose they are right. I began the Harry Potter Series in first grade, the Chronicles of Narnia in the summer after first grade, and the Series of Unfortunate Events in second grade. In first grade, I was tested by my teacher. When the results came back, it said that my reading level was at least at a sixth grade level. My parents were, predictably, proud.
I wrote this last year. I don’t actually know why--sometime inspiration just hits me for absolutely no reason.
Its rosy fingers curl,
Like the tendrils of dawn,
Around the hillsides and beyond,
Never stopping in its hunt for splendor.
Its beautiful colors burn,
Like the pigments of the toucan,
Filling the sky with enormous chaos,
But giving it perfection, all the same.
Its arch is everlasting,
Like the green hue of a pine,
And you know that wherever you go,
It will always be there, to guide you.
Its pot of gold taunts,
Like the legends of fairy tales,
Drawing you ever closer,
To the harmless believing of childhood.
I don’t know if you think it’s good, but to me it seems like something that could be found between the glossy covers of a hardback poetry book in Barnes and Noble.
I found a quote online that I think sums up life entirely.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw is a wonderful playwright, and I think in this two sentence quote, anyone can see that. You’re always told that you have to find yourself to truly live your life. I, and apparently George Bernard Shaw, disagree. I believe that there is no way to find yourself. There is no “self” lurking within your skin, waiting to be discovered. Each of us has to create ourselves. We are the sculptors who take the soft clay and mold ourselves with personality and interests. We create our own way of life, and, in doing so, we become ourselves. I am who I am today because of each and every person who has affected me, but I am also who I am because of the joys that have rippled throughout, and the struggles that have plagued, my life, sometimes as blessings, and sometimes as curses. I am proud of who I am. I found another quote, this one anonymous, and I want to close my autobiography with it.
I’m not a perfect girl.
My hair doesn’t always stay in place &
I spill things a lot. I’m pretty clumsy &
Sometimes I have a broken heart,
My friends & I fight &
maybe somedays nothing goes right,
But when I think about it & take a step back
I remember how amazing life truly is
& maybe, just maybe, I like being