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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: A Twilight Boat Ride
By Stephanie Bullard


It’s Christmas day. I am eleven years old. And I am at one of my favorite places in the entire world: Grandma’s house. My Grandparents have the ultimate “Grandma’s house”. Acres of land – I don’t know how many; never thought to ask – with every imaginable fun activity. There is the backhoe that Grandpa gives us rides in, lifting us high in the rusty orange scoop and driving up and down the driveway. There are the woods, where my sister, cousins and I play Indians, or wolves or horses. There is the “soccer field”, which is really only an open area for any running game, most often “tag”...I can’t remember ever actually playing soccer there. And leading from the woods to the soccer field is what once-upon-a-time must have been a very nice bridge. But that was before my time. It is, however, the ultimate stage for our rendition of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” My older sister, and younger cousin and I are inseparable (that is, when we are together) and any time we are at that bridge with our Grandma, we giddily don our roles as the Three Billy Goats…my cousin, Elyse, is the littlest Billy Goat, I am the middle Billy Goat, and my sister Kristin is the biggest. My Grandma double-stars as both the narrator and the Troll. Climb up the hill from the soccer field and you run into the path that leads in a full circle around the pond. Ah yes, the pond. The pond is possibly the greatest of all things at my Grandparent’s house. The thrills it offers seem almost limitless. Fishing for Blue Gill and Bass; swinging out over it on the tire swing or Tarzan swing (or if you are me and you are two, falling into it off the Tarzan swing); swimming in the summer; ice skating in the winter; boat rides and frog hunting…ah yes, the frog hunting is the best. There is a fine method to hunting frogs and my sister is the master. After long days of frog catching, and boating, Billy Goat Gruffing and tree climbing (did I mention the Pine trees?) we collapse on the mats in front of the TV and end the day with "Flipper".

But now, it’s Christmas day. And I am eleven years old. And everything is wrong. My whole family is not with us in this magical place where we spend every Christmas: only me and my brother are here. My mom, my dad, my baby sister, and my thoughts are all back in a hospital room in Ohio where Kristin, my big sister, my hero, biggest Billy Goat and frog-catcher extreme, is having surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. I don’t want to be in Pennsylvania. I don’t want to be at Grandma’s. I don’t want to have fun and whenever I start having it, I feel guilty. But no one asked me. I am eleven and my parents want my Christmas to be as normal and happy as possible; they don’t want me to worry or hang out in a hospital. So they send me and my brother with Grandma. My brother is five, clueless and happy and that’s good. And my Grandma tries to make things as fun as possible. But it’s not the same. My sister isn’t with me. She’s in a hospital. I can’t have fun.

The weather is mild and we go out for a boat ride, just my Grandma and me. The colors of the evening sky and the trees are reflected in the pond. Everything seems to be that pinky-orange color that twilight often paints things. Even now, I am a writer; feelings and emotions that are bottled up need to come out; at this age, they often come out in the form of a poem. The poem I write that night has nothing to do with my sadness; nothing to do with Christmas, or my sister, hospitals or being eleven. It is simply about my boat ride with my Grandma. And even in that sad Christmas, a wonderful thing happens; for I do not know if any other poem I have ever written has ever made anyone so happy as that poem makes my Grandma. It’s Christmas day. And I am eleven years old. And it is bitter-sweet.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 12/05/08
This brought back so many memories of visits to my grandparents and all the places to explore. Your thoughts are so poignant. I wanted to know more about your sister. Thanks for taking me to visit your Grandparents!
Mary Alice Bowles12/05/08
I am the grandmother of 7 girls and this story is so cute. Makes me feel good!!
Karlene Jacobsen12/08/08
How sad to be eleven and have to deal with such a heavy load of guilt whenever she begins to have fun.
Well written.