Things Children Say
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The Spectator
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 by Frank Shortt
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        Recently while on a walk with my four- year-old great-grandson, Odin, he stopped, all of a sudden, looked up at me and said, “Poppy, I want to be everything that you are!” The voice that spoke did not sound like his. I could not help but wonder where he had heard this phrase.
        Dumfounded? All these thoughts kept racing through my mind. Am I being a good example? What is it that he sees in me that he would like to be? Now I am put on the spot! I must set the example.
        A few years ago I was the official authority on collecting paper memorabilia at the school district where I worked for over thirty years as Chief of Operations. I was invited by teachers to conduct ‘book talks’ in their classrooms. Sometimes, during teacher’s in-service days, I would be asked to conduct classes for teachers on how to present book collecting information to children.
        On one of these many sojourns to classrooms, I was invited to Miller Elementary School in San Jose, California to do a talk. On my ‘book talk’ visits I always took a beat-up, messy copy of the Wizard of Oz complete with the wonderful illustrations by John R. Neill. This was to accomplish two things: First, to show the children what ‘not’ to do to a book, and secondly, to show them a great example of colored illustration. The book talk went very well as I gave them all the finer points of what makes a book valuable. It must be a first edition, preferable with a dust jacket, by a well-known author, autographed if possible, and most of all, must be in excellent condition to have any value. I am sure you get the idea.
        After a few days I received, via the district ‘pony’, a packet of letters, one especially, written by one of the little girls in the class. “Mr. Shortt, thank you for visiting our class today and thank you for sharing that dirty book!”
I am convinced that the teacher did not ‘censor’ the letters or she would have found this one rather interesting!
Oftentimes, children write things that do not pertain to the subject at hand, such as the third grade girl, Reyna, who must have been really bothered as to why her sister spent more time on the phone than pursuing her studies. She wrote the following poem to me after one of my visits to her classroom:
My Sister’s Always on the Phone

My Sister’s always on the phone,
I never see her study
She doesn’t do here homework
Which is why her grades are cruddy!
My sister’s always on the phone!

Oh spiders, oh spiders
As creepy as can be!
Why do you have the ability
To crawl all over me?
I don’t know, no one knows
Cause all you do is bad!
Spiders, spiders, everywhere,
Oh man, oh man, oh man!


I’ve explored caves.
Deep, dark caves.
Like dank hollows of my soul.
I’ve met snakes,
Long, slimy snakes!
Much like life’s challenges.
I’ve met bears,
Great, growling bears.
Like some’s attitude of life.
I’ve seen eagles,
High flying,
Soaring above grief and woe.
Encounters I’ve had
Taught me.
I’m grateful for them all.
Now my course
Is up to me
Do I rise or plunge?

         Dear Mr. Shortt,
        Thank you for coming. It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope you liked (like) my poem. I really like the rhythm of your poems. Thank you for helping us learn more about poetry. From, Brandon
       One of the greatest letters I ever received was from a third grader in my daughter Lori’s class. He must have been deeply touched by the following poem:
        Joshua wrote:
        “Encounters!” Have you ever explored a cave before? The poem I enjoy the most is ‘Encounters’ by Frank Shortt. It is about seeing new things, also, learning what life is. I can relate to that, therefore, I’m fond of this poem. One of the reasons I have affection for this poem is because of the similes. “Like the dank hollows of my soul”. That line compares someone’s soul with something dark and empty. The second occasion is the hopeful sentence, “I’ve seen eagles, high flying, over grief and woe”. It is hopeful because people can look up to the future and (that they) will avoid the bad like a high-flying eagle. I relish ‘Encounters’. Other people may not like it because they don’t like snakes, or they don’t care about the other stuff the author talks about, for example, bears, eagles, or caves. But for me, there is so much I enjoy about this poem.”
        When I read things like this, coming from a young fertile mind, I take great hope in the future of our young people in America. We could just possibly be leaving our inheritance in very good hands.