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I really enjoyed “Around the Corner” by Sharon Bryan and “Volar” by Judith Ortiz Cofer.  Both readings spoke to me as they dealt with the relationship between a mother and a daughter.  Each story explored the idea of raising a child and trading your own dreams in exchange for your child’s to come true.  

As children, I think we aren’t always aware of the fact that adults were once children as well, full of their own hopes, dreams and hobbies.  I personally don’t remember thinking of mother as anything but a mother when I was younger.  Now, at 25 years old, I am only a year younger than she was when my twin brother and I were born.  I recognize that I have dreams and desires and surely my mother must have had some when she welcomed two infants into the world.  

In “Around the Corner”, Sharon Bryan reflects on her mother’s hobbies including horseback riding, archery and journalism.  “She left them behind for life with my father, and me, and eventually my two brothers.”  While I don’t think women need to separate themselves from their former lives, I do think it becomes difficult to maintain the same hobbies and projects when your main focus is now on a small child who depends on you.  My mom always has said that she wants more for me than she ever had.  As sweet as it is, I find it rather heartbreaking at the same time.  I want more for my mother than she ever had.  I would honestly rather go without to know my mother had abandoned any part of who she is for me.  Just as Sharon Bryan writes “I was haunted by the image of the person who seemed to have disappeared around the corner just before I arrived.”  It is the perfect summarization of how I feel in regards to my own mother.

The same tone is felt throughout “Volar” by Judith Ortiz Cofer.  It is yet another story about a mother who loves her life, yet still catches herself dreaming about what it would be like to fly away.  Judith opens the story with detail about being an enthusiastic comic book reader, dreaming each night about transforming into a super hero.  These dreams alluded to the escape of life that we all sometimes fantasize about.  Turning into someone else, looks and personality, and getting away from the monotony life can be.  It appears that Judith’s mother yearns to take a vacation to see her family.  She asks “How about a vacation in Puerto Rico together this year, Querido?”  When he turns the idea down, her mother would gaze out the kitchen window, which faced a dirty alley.  “She’d sigh deeply and say the same thing the view from her kitchen window always inspired her to say: Ay, si yo pudiera volar.”  Translated, it means “Oh, if I could fly”.  Oh, if I could.. 

 

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While reading these three essays, I noticed similar writing tools.  The use of a narrative tone is apparent in all three writings.  In each story, the author uses a specific event to illustrate an intrapersonal change or development.  

In “Westbury Court” by Edwidge Danticourt, the event would be the fire resulting in her awareness of the world around her.  David Sedaris writes in “Full House” about a sleepover where he attained a confidence that he had lacked before, especially relating to his sexuality.  And “The Test” by Scott Carter touches upon his job interacting with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia which seemingly unleashed his own personal demons.  

In the newest reading, Scott Carter writes about interviewing patients as part of a larger study.  His job was to “drive around the state, through the small towns, searching out individuals who are often transient and prone to hiding.”  This piece of writing takes the reader on quite an alarming ride as Scott seems to lose his own grip on reality.  He mentions his wife leaving him and taking the children and that being a reason why he accepted the position.  We read about several different interviewees and their trials and tribulations behind their disease.  One even seemed to turn the tables on Scott, instead interviewing him.  The subject steers Scott towards a crystal hidden in his pocket, asking Scott is he would like to see it.  “I can look through this and it will tell me whether you’re a good person or not”, he says.  

At the end of the story, Scott answers the interview questions himself.  In each summarization of his life, it seems to get more grim.  They are told in chronological order, starting with his wife having left three weeks prior, then two months, and then three months.  In each description of his life at each time, he seems to crack a little more.  Before his wife leaves him, we even see a glimpse into his mental stability at that time.  Scott writes that he “Tore out all the walls and ceilings, all the lath and plaster, right down to the studs” in order to “live like a primitive.”  A sane man would not destroy the home that he and his family reside in.  That would be against the norms of society and would not be a safe environment for people to occupy.  It leaves the reader to question the state of mind he was in at that time.  Two months after his wife leaving, he “says there’s a darkness that separates him from other people.”  That, too, is an unsettling revelation.  And even at three months alone, Scott claims he is doing better.  He even has been fishing, a relatively normal activity.  But the reveal of his gutting fish and studying the bugs that they had digested shocks the reader.  He claims “he’s okay now, and that it was the fly rod, just holding the rod in his hand, that cured him.”  Again, he proves that he is still not okay.  

I believe all three stories use a personal experience that happened at a critical turning point in their lives.  Two were at adolescence, and turned out to be somewhat positive experiences as both learned and matured.  But Scott Carter’s story was a little more sad, as he was already a grown man who then fell apart.  While his wife leaving him was obviously catastrophic, I feel like his job interviewing schizophrenics made him aware that he himself was not well.  

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Both “Westbury Court” and “Full House” were interesting, detailed stories from early adolescent days.  In each writing, the author transports you back in time by letting you into the world they lived in.  A world that ultimately led them to a defining moment in their development.  

 

In “Westbury Court”, you are introduced right away to the apartment building in which an event would take place that would forever change the author.  The building is six graffiti-covered brick stories and the imagery is so descriptive that the apartment begins to take shape inside your mind.  You can feel the D, M and Q trains shaking the neighborhood from beneath the streets.  You can see the episode of “General Hospital” flashing on the television screen.  You can smell the smoke and feel the panic of escaping from a fire that had started in your neighbors apartment.  Unfortunately, the fire took the life of the two small children who had been carelessly playing with matches.  The author seemed to be naive early on; not realizing that a similar event could take place within their own apartment walls.  Instead of actively watching the younger siblings, the author instead watched television.  After the fire, the author seems to be very conscious of the irony of the situation, what could have happened.  

 

In “Full House”, David Sedaris opens with the same flashback scenario.  One of his growing up with parents who weren’t as normal as he would have liked.  His parents abandon the ritual of “bedtime”, instead just falling asleep whenever and wherever their eyes happened to close.  For David’s first sleepover, the novelty of “we can stay up late!” wasn’t much of a draw.. neither was the fact of David’s being gay.  David’s first sleepover was uncomfortable and awkward, much like many of our own first sleepovers.  He spent much of the evening trying to “fit in” with the other boys, trying to speak their lingo and failing miserably.  The other boys were well versed in the conversations they were having, about cars or sports, things David was not interested in.  But at a turning point in the evening, David realized the boys were not well versed in everything.  Poker.  Strip poker at that.  David played this to his advantage and changed the rules to his benefit.  In the end, David left the sleepover a little more aware in his sexuality.  He had pulled one over on the other boys, who ended up naked and maybe a little curious as to why David was so interested in their nude bodies.  

 

I liked “Full House” better, as it was humorous.  “Westbury Court” dealt more with the coming to terms with the finality of life and the impact certain accidents could have.  Both stories were enjoyable.