Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breath, Eyes, Memory - creative extensions and other endings

The Blog experiment in an English 103 classroom.

In our English 103 reading class this semester, we started with the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. Our reading led to other kinds of readings (documentaries, movies, and articles) that focused on bringing marginalized voices to the center. 

Danticat gave us words and the students used them to look into society's structure and they examined the word "patriarchy." At the completion of the novel the students wrote extensions to the novel and some students rewrote the ending.  Examples are below.

As the facilitator of the learning process in these two reading classes the students email me their stories and assessments and I upload them to the blogs.  I do the final editing with the help of the students.  They read for errors too.  They are asked to enter the blog and read the various stories.  I also ask them about the design and they are encouraged to contribute suggestions and comments.

Seeing myself as facilitator and/or participant observer has given me different lens to view the learning process.  Blogs give students another reason for reading and sharing and it also opens them up to a larger audience and the idea of publishing.  I wonder what it does for self esteem, confidence, independence, building classroom community, inspiring an interest in knowing, etc?  I will have to ask the students.
Extensions to Breath, Eyes, Memory by Danticat

Emerson Malone
October 9, 2011
ENG 103
            My grandmother quickly pressed her fingers over my lips.
            “Now,” she said, “you will know how to answer.”
She wrapped her arms around me for a hug before we walked back to the service. Everyone was staring at us as we walked back, she was essentially holding me up with her frail arms and I kept my face covered by my hands for any lingering, residual whimpers.
That night, I had difficulty falling asleep again. I couldn’t think of resting at a time like this. My brain would not slow down. This time, I wasn’t thinking about if my mother’s death was my fault, but rather the initial act of her suicide itself. After Joseph and I visited her, she told me that her unborn child was calling her a “filthy whore” and it sounded like the man who raped her.
My mother’s paranoia and anxiety from her rape never decelerated. In fact, if anything, it exacerbated exponentially. Her fear of her attacker was always internal and it never left her. When we first started living together, I had to take care of her when she had her nightmares. Now it was much different. Her biggest fear had taken on a very vital role in her life. A tangible one, at that.
I remember she asked me if there was something left inside of her from the rape, and what she would do if the child looks like him. To borrow a cliché, my mother’s nightmares had become real.
It would be an utterly nonsensical if it were anyone else who came up with this idea. But since it was my mother, it was completely normal.
Her entire life was defined with this man who attacked her. She was so conscious of the man that she was thinking about him everyday. Soon her awareness of him as a threat grew from a hyperawareness to maniacal obsession. Finally, when she was pregnant, her baby eventually materialized the threat himself. The menace was literally growing inside of my mother, clawing away at her, and making her go insane. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this evil manifestation was the ultimate burden for my mother to bear.
 My mother weighed her options, and she chose to abort her child by stabbing herself in her bathroom. This obviously wasn’t the sanest of choices because she inadvertently killed herself in the process. She was not suicidal, but merely looking for solace from her stressful life.
With all of this in mind, I somehow managed to fall asleep that night.
In the morning following the funeral service, I made breakfast for everyone in the kitchen that I haven’t used for a number of years. I cooked a pot full of oatmeal with fruit. Marc woke up first, followed by Grandme Ife and Tante Atie.
The four of us were quiet during breakfast. It would have been completely silent if it were not for the continuous clink of silverware against the ceramic bowls. The mood was undoubtedly drained raw. The death of my mother was the elephant in the room. Although no one acknowledged it, we were all thinking about it. None of us could have helped. Although I still feel guilty (and may feel this way permanently) for the episode, it happened on my mother’s own accord.
Marc told me that he had to get back to New York to attend to business.
We headed back to Dame Marie the following day for our flight back to the United States. It was not easy saying goodbye to Grandme Ife and Tante Atie. I felt as though I were abandoning them. It was a strange feeling, to think that I was compelled to take care of those who once did the same for me.
When we hugged goodbye, Grandme Ife’s skeletal arms were strangling my neck. I could tell she didn’t want to let go.
We took a cab to Dame Marie. The airport was predictably chaotic. We took our flight to New York and took a cab from the airport to Brooklyn, back to Marc’s house.
It was there we said goodbye. I always thought Marc was slightly patronizing to me, and always treated me like a child. When I was leaving him alone in the house where my mother once lived, I saw in his solemn eyes that he has changed. The death of my mother certainly concerned many people, but I believe that it may have been the two of us whom it was the most taxing.
I returned to Joseph and Brigitte. I held Brigitte in my arms and greeted Joseph. He cooked dinner for the two of us. It was over dinner I realized that I couldn’t stop thinking about Grandme Ife and Tante Atie. I left them behind with no one but one another. Tante Atie certainly could not experience any more neglect in her life since Louise left her.
I suddenly had an idea while I was spoon-feeding Brigitte her dinner.
“Joseph,” I asked, “how do you feel about moving to Haiti?”
Kayla Keith
October 12, 2011
English 103
Mon. & Wed. 1 pm
Breath, Eyes, Memory Extension
And then Sophie woke up. Dripping with sweat and tears pouring out of her eyes, she frantically looked around the room to examine where she was. A wave of relief crashed down on her when she looked to her right to find Joseph sleeping peacefully next to her. She sleepily got turned her body to sit up and set her feet on the cold wood floor. Sophie grabbed the phone from her nightstand and quickly dialed her mother’s number.

“Hello?” A deep, half-asleep voice mumbled into the phone. “Where is my mother?” Sophie was quick with her words. Sounding confused, Marc told her that her mother was sleeping still for the first time he'd seen. Sophie demanded to speak to her anyway. “Sophie! I got rid of the baby!” Martine excitedly sang into the phone. “What? How?” “I had him aborted, Sophie,” she was the happiest sounding that Sophie had ever heard. “And now, the voices, Sophie, they’re gone. I can sleep peacefully now, for the first time in almost thirty years.”
Sophie hurried down the sidewalk, dodging through the business of New York City. She looked down at her watch and picked up her speed, attempting to run in her new wedges. She had sat in the store the day before for an hour contemplating buying these foreign objects, but had finally decided to get them for this occasion. Relieved that she had finally reached her destination as her feet began to ache, she pushed the glass door and rushed inside.

“Mom! You’re finally here! What do you think about this one? I think this is the one!” Brigitte glowed in the elegant white dress. Sophie was speechless as her eyes began to fill with tears and she couldn’t help but smile. “Oh, Brigitte. It’s beautiful. Where is you’re grandma? Has she arrived yet? She would love this.” “I’m over here, Sophie. We’ve been waiting on you, as usual,” Martine laughed as she sat on the big love seat behind Brigitte. “Isn’t she lovely?” Sophie smiled and sat down next to her mother. They gazed up at Brigitte as she twirled and giggled, watching herself in the three-way mirror.

They left the bridal store and walked through the big crowds of New York City. Sophie struggled to walk in her wedges. She watched her feet as she walked. Martine pulled her arm as they abruptly came to a stop. She looked up to see Tante Atie. She froze. Unsure if this was real, no one said a word, but just looked. Finally, Brigitte looked at them and said, “I had to. My wedding will be a big day for me, and for all of us. I only thought it was necessary to bring her here.” Still not sure if what she was looking at was true, Sophie ran forward to hug a much older looking Tante Atie.

Martine had the family over for dinner that night. Sophie was still so surprised. When they walked in, she screamed, “everyone, look who’s come to visit for the wedding!” “Yes we all know,” Joseph chuckled as he got up to hug them. “Why was I the only one who was not aware of this?” Sophie asked. “We wanted to surprise you,” he said back. They all sat at the table. “Where is my fiancé?” Brigitte asked as Marc brought out a big bowl of pasta. “Oh yes, he said he was going to be running late and that he sends his apologies. He said to go ahead and start eating without him,” he sat and grabbed a piece of bread.

After dinner, everyone sat around the fireplace as Tante Atie confessed that she was finally moving to America. “Ever since my mother died, I have no purpose to not be here,” she told them all. The front door opened and they all looked over to see Brigitte’s fiancé. “Jason! Where have you been? You are two hours late!” Brigitte angrily looked at her soon-to-be-husband. “I know, I know. I’m so sorry,” he said with his hands behind his back. Brigitte looked at him curiously. He grinned and pulled his hands forward, holding a bouquet of yellow daisies. She jumped up to kiss him, forgetting at all that she was angry.

After hours of talking and discussing the details of the wedding, everyone went to head home. Brigitte was sitting in the passenger seat, staring in adoration at Jason. Feeling her eyes burn into him, he glanced over at her. He laughed and told her he loved her. When he looked back at the road, it was too late. The headlights of an SUV were coming directly at them, going 80 miles per hour. It crashed into them and the car flipped and landed on its side. Jason woke up in the hospital. “Where’s Brigitte?” he screamed at the nurse. “I am so very sorry,” she looked at him with pitiful eyes.

Sophie held Jason’s hand as he looked down at his shiny, black shoes during the funeral. When it was time to lower her casket into the ground, Sophie and Tante Atie threw handfuls of dirt onto it. With tears in his eyes, Jason places the little, yellow daisies onto the top of the casket. “Goodbye, my beautiful Brigitte. I’m sorry. I will love you forever.”
Arlene Reynoso
Eng 103/ 8:00 am
Chapter 36

“Ou libéreré?” “Ou libéreré?”…  I felt deep sadness, yet at the same time I felt graceful because I realized that the entire terrible event was one of my horrible nightmares.   I gave Merci to God for giving me the opportunity of awaking me to the sinister life I was living.
I remembered, the last few words my grandmother told me in her appearance in my nightmare.  “Now, You will know how to answer,” referring if I was feeling like a free person.  The answer is affirmative, “now I really know,” I told to myself.  I decided to leave all my problems behind.  I decided to help my mother to overcome her trauma, and heal herself as well as me.
I went to Brooklyn without saying a word to my mother.  She was surprised to see me there, “Ohh, Sophie!” “It’s a pleasure having you around here” “It makes me feel good knowing that we are now friends,” she said, while she was holding my face and looking me into the eyes.   “Manman I’m here because of the decision you made,” I said.  “ I’m afraid something will go wrong.” “I know darling, so am I.”  “Manman, you still have the opportunity to become a butterfly like in the story of the woman after her consultation with Erzulie.”  “Let me help you, please!”  “ I love you so much, and I don’t want to lose you.” “We are like the Marassas, remember?”
I made a confrontational therapy with my mother.  Rena was so glad because we were giving a huge step in our healing and acceptance process.   Also, my mother said that it was easier that she had thought, and she was hoping to continue going to therapy. 
Several months passed, and my mother gave birth to a beautiful girl.  She was wrong with the idea that her baby was going to be a boy.  She received the name of Daffodil; she received that name for two reasons.  First because that is my mother’s favorite flower, and second because of the Greek mythology of Narcissus.   Narcissus was a young man who fell in love of his own image reflected on a lake.  For the reason he was always looking into the lake, he fell and drowned.  Mysteriously, a flower grows up on the same spot he died.  This flower receives the name of narcissus or daffodil.   My mother and I have our own interpretation of the story.  We believe that it has to be a metamorphosis, a new life after another or a transformation of something prettier or a new renaissance.  “A new renaissance,” “that’s what it is,” I said to my mother looking her radiant face while holding her baby girl.  We kept the lights on the whole night.  We wanted to change the story my grandmother told me about when girls were born, and only the mother stay with the girl with the lights off.  Marc and Joseph brought some “It’s a girl” balloons and flowers.  Brigitte looked so happy that now she finally would have someone to play with.
Although, several things have change in the past few months, we still taking therapy with Rena.  Also Marc and Joseph have come with us for a while, and we have improved our relation as couples.  I am starting to have sexual connection with Joseph, but sometimes I have some flashbacks of the tests and it is impossible for me to enjoy him.

Ti Bo Lanmou
Soley Kouchan
Ti bouch ou
K’ap pentire
Syel grenn je-m
Fe dan-m siret siret
Nan dan-w
Fe dan-w siret siret
Nan dan-m
Fe mwen domi
Nan bra-w
Fe ou domi

Little Love Kiss
Sunlight recline
Your little mouth
Paint my eyes with
Flecks of sky
My sweet mango tender
Between your teeth
Your sweet mango tender
Between mine
I fall asleep
In your arms
You fall asleep
Down below me

After my grandmother died, Tante Atie came to New York to live near us.  She is still writing her poems, but this time love ones.  She looked for Louise, and now they are living together.  They have been in love for a long time, but they were afraid to confess their feelings to each other.
I decided to write my biography book to encourage the voiceless and powerless people, especially women to overcome whatever challenge is in their lives.  There is always hope, and someone who loves you.  Don’t be afraid of doing whatever passion is in your heart.   Always listen to your heart.  I did it, and I could save my mother of the terrible nightmare she was living.  Finally, my mother and I stopped, at least in our family, the horrible tradition of testing our daughters.  We want them to enjoy a healthy lives that we hadn’t had until now.  As my mothers said once, “ Us,  Caco women, when we’re happy, we’re very happy.”  And seriously, we are really happy. 
Lupita Garcia
English 103
Breath, Eyes Memory – Novel Extension
            After Martine’s death, I continue my life alongside of my husband and my baby Bridgette in Providence. Aunt Atie and Grandma Ife stayed in Haiti. I tried to convince Atie to come live with me but she refused.
            I continue to meet with my therapist as well as attend my sexual phobia group. “I’m sorry about your mother”, said the therapist while putting out her cigarette. “I really don’t want to take about the issue at the time”, I replied dolefully. I did not want to talk about my mother although in strange way I was happy for her. I was happy she was relieved from the nightmares and pain my father caused her.
“That is perfectly fine Sophie, although I encouraged you to alleviate your anger, but any who, how is your relationship with your husband.”
“After Martine’s death, it has seemed things are more difficult for Joseph and I, even though he is very patient with me, I loose patients to myself. He is helping me with baby Bridgette yet I feel so overwhelm. My sex phobia group is going okay but Martine’s death has impacted me more than I thought.”
“That is great that Joseph is considerate about your feelings and he is being patient, he understands your pain. So tell me what happen to your mother lover’ Marc”
“I have not heard of Marc after the accident. And I don’t really want to know about him.”
“You are still in denial and blame him”
“Sure.” I replied.
The relationship between Joseph and I was not going very well. He loved me greatly but I couldn’t be with him anymore. We decided to separate. Bridgette and I have moved into my mother’s house in New York. While we are distanced I hope to be able to recover from the phobia and be able to be with my husband.
It has been a year after Martine’s death. Grandma Ife was very ill. Bridgette and I made another trip to Haiti. We had not gone since Martine’s death. Ou libere, I’m free, at least is what I have been able to live with the thought that I am. Returning to Haiti has brought back many painful memories for Martine and well as for me. My grandmother was an old woman who always felt displaced and her stories consoled her. Aunt Atie and I would rub black pepper on her upper lip so she would sneeze. It was believe if an ill person sneezes they would live. As I rocked baby Bridget to sleep in the porch I watched for a falling star. When a star falls out of the sky it was meant some will die. The next morning Grandma Ife had passed away. She believed that no one really dies unless they are remembered. Now two great women in my life, Martine and Grandma Ife, both rest peacefully in the hill of Guinea, where someday we will all reunite.
“Sophie will you stay longer time with me, do not leave me alone.” Aunt Atie insisted for me to stay but Haiti was fill of mixed memories one much stronger than others.
“Aunt Atie, why don’t you come live with Bridget and I to New York”
“No my child, Haiti is where I belong and where I will die.”
I agreed to spend a few days with Aunt Atie. I approached the time I had to go visit my mother. In the way I made a quick stop in the field to place a crucified, that way I would finish burring memories that yet remain. After doing so, I felt relieved.
The next morning I packed my belonging and started to head off to New York for the third time. As Aunt Atie, Baby Bridget, and I rode the taxi to the station, the hill of Guinea faded in the distance, saying a prayer for the strong women who survive a long fight and now live calming in Guinea away from any harm.
On my returned back to New York, I arrived home to find Joseph in the porch. He really does love me. I invited him to come inside and spend time with baby Bridget, who was growing very fast. We talked.
“Sophie, please come live with me, I need you and our Baby. I know things are difficult for you. But we can both keep trying and live through it together”
After burying all those horrifying memories in Haiti. I felt the white elephant in the room was gone. I did no longer felt agonized by the situation. Therefore I agree to Joseph proposition. But I wanted to live in my mother’s home as a memory of her.
Fifteen years have passed. Bridget is growing into a beautiful young lady. And for Joseph and me, our relationship has been going great. We have come to manage and repair all the damage that was cause. As to mention, I was expecting another child, another blessing. We have stumbled, but we have not fallen. Ou libere, I’m free!
Siobhan Crevecoeur
ENG 103
Extension to Breath, Eyes and Memory
It seemed the entire village was watching me tear through the cane. My grandmother’s words echoed in my head as we walked back to the house. Was I free? Will I ever be? I struggled with the idea. My mother was never free, she suffered every single day. Was that my fate? Tante Atie was solemn as she walked behind Ife and me. I wondered what she was thinking as the tears flowed never ending from her eyes. “Strong as mountains.” I said to her “My child, there are no mountains like Martine. She was the strongest of them all.”  I wondered if that was true.
When we got back to Grandme Ife’s house, people from the village had left pots of ginger tea and baskets of dried flowers. The air was thick and warm, and the moon shone bright over us. This bothered me for some reason. I was afraid to sleep in my mother’s room. Would the nightmares now become mine? Would I now fully know what tormented her for so many years and made her take her life? There was only one way to find out. I walked out on the porch and had a cup of tea. In the distance I could hear people singing songs to honor the dead. Their voices carried on the breeze and were strangely comforting. As I wiped the tears from my eyes Tante Atie came and sat down next to me. We sat in silence, listening to the wind through the trees and the chirping of the crickets. “Rest my child.” she said and handed me one of my mother’s old sweaters “Do not cry for her, she rests now with no more dreams of this place. She is at peace now.”
I walked down the dirt road, daffodils blossomed all around as the sun shined warm on my skin. Through the tall grass I heard the trickle of the stream. I sat on the bank of the stream and put my feet into the cool water. In the shade of the trees I laid down, a crown of daffodils around me. I was somewhere I’d never been, but somehow knew. A lark perched in the tree above me and his song was beautiful. I wondered where I was and why I was there, but in my state of calm I did nothing to find out. Brigitte cooed softly and pulled a daffodil close to her mouth. Moments like these make life more beautiful. My mother came and sat in between Brigitte and me. Her skin was a soft brown, her eyes seemed brighter and her hair was down and longer than I’d seen it before. I made a chain of daffodils and put them in her hair. “Mother…” I began “I am alright Sophie.” she interrupted. Her words seemed final and certain and I looked over at Brigitte who was sleeping sweetly in the grass.
I opened my eyes and found myself wrapped in my mother’s sweater. I did not have the nightmares my mother did. But was I safe forever? I wished I could have stayed by that stream. I felt more energized, I knew my mother was alright and I couldn’t wait to see Brigitte. There were no kids in our yard this morning and the leaves had begun to pile up. Tante Atie was in her room and Grandme Ife was in the wash room. I gathered my things and put them in my suitcase and instead of packing the sweater, I put it on. I knocked on Tante Atie’s door but there was no answer. I wanted to tell her about my dream. How real it felt, and that my mother was at peace.  I walked out the front door and put my suitcase on the porch. The cab driver should be arriving soon to take me to Port Au Prince for my flight back to New York.
Ife came out to sit with me. “Is Atie going to be alright? I knocked on her door and she said nothing.” Ife’s face seemed desperate to answer my question. “Atie is a strong Haitian woman, but your mother’s death is too much for her just now. Give her time and she will be the same Atie again.” My heart suddenly felt heavy and I held back the tears that tried to leap from my eyes. Outside I could hear the neighbors talking and I knew the cab driver was coming up the street. I felt as though I was paralyzed and did not want to leave the porch. The cab driver honked twice and Grandme Ife stood up and waved to him. I put my suitcase in the backseat of the car and hugged Grandme Ife tightly.
I knew I would be back in Haiti soon; I needed to stay close to the strong women I had left. I gave the driver money and got in the car. We started to pull away from the house I could see Grandme Ife watching me drive away. I saw Tante Atie fly out of the house and run after the cab. “Stop! Please!” I said to the driver and he pulled over. Atie was running towards me, tears streaming down her face, and I began to run to her. When we met, she threw her arms around me and held me so tight I thought I’d burst. “I could never let you leave without saying goodbye.” she said “It’s bad luck.” She looked into my eyes waiting for me to say something. “She is alright. She told me in my dreams and I believe she is right.” Atie looked at me with such relief, as if she was waiting for me to tell her. I hugged her again, smelled the orange oil on her skin and kissed her cheek. I got back in the car as Grandme Ife walked up and stood with Atie. They both became smaller figures in the distance as I left Dame Marie. This time, I was not sad; I was not scarred or worried of what life will be like without my mother. She was in a beautiful happy place full of daffodils and quiet streams. She was happier than she had ever been in life, and knowing that gave me the strength to smile even when I thought it impossible.

Nico Cabildo
English 103

            I was watching the news on TV as the phone started to ring.  I quickly hoped off of the couch to pick up the phone in the kitchen. 
“Hello, mom?”
“Yes how are you, Sophie?”
“I’m fine.  How did the operation go?”
“I did not get it.  I can’t do it.  I woke up this morning and thought to myself, how could I ever kill this child?  What if I would’ve gotten an abortion with you?  I could’ve missed out on raising another wonderful daughter. “
“That is very true.  I am glad you decided to keep this child.  You will not be alone during this time.  Joseph and I are always just a phone call away.”
“I know, thank you Sophie.  It’s getting late, I’m going to go get ready for bed.  Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Mom.”
            It was nice talking to my mom.  Hearing her voice put me at ease.  I was worried about her I thought something had gone wrong.  I’m glad she didn’t get the abortion.  She’s right, what if she had gotten an abortion with me.  I wouldn’t be here right now.  No one would know or love Sophie.  That idea gave me the chills.  She could have easily decided to abort me and that would be the end of me.  Any possibility of me being able to experience life would be taken away from me.  And I would have no say in what happens. The thought was stuck in my head all throughout the night.
            I woke up to Brigitte crying early that morning.  I fed her breakfast and started with my day.  Joseph was making coffee while waiting on our toast.  We sped through our breakfast and split to our daily routines.  I wanted to see my mom so I took Brigitte and we went for a drive over to her house.  We arrived to a nicely baked apple pie she had prepared for us. 
“How’s Joseph?” Martine asked
“He’s good.  He couldn’t be here with us right now because of his rehearsals.”
“I understand.  This pregnancy is going to be very tough for me.  No matter how hard I try I can never forget his face.  His voice is always speaking to me in my sleep.  I stay awake most of the nights now.  But I will keep trying.  I know you are all here to support me.”
“Of course were here for you.  Have you told Grandma Ife?”
“No I can’t yet.  I don’t know how.  But I know I must, she will know soon enough. “
We had some tea along with some small talk for the rest of the afternoon.  As I arrived home Joseph was on the couch watching TV. 
“Your mom just called.  She asked that you call her back right away.”
“How long ago did she call?”
“About 20 minutes ago.”
I gave him Brigitte and picked up the phone to call my mom.  After only a few rings she answered.
“What is it? Is something wrong?”
“Your Grandma Ife is dead.”
“What? How?  When did this happen?”
“Your Tante Atie called me right after you left.  Apparently she died in her sleep.  She was old, and she knew that her time was coming soon.”
“I loved her very much.  Now she is in a better place.”
“Yes, she is with my father again.  She will be happy to be reunited.”
            After the phone call with my mom I just sat there in silence.  No one close to me has ever died before. I didn’t think I would have to return back to Haiti so fast. At least I was able to spend time with her before she passed.  Seeing her face and hearing her voice for the last time is something I will cherish along with her memory.  She raised two wonderful women who would have the biggest impact on my life.  She paved the road for the women of my family and is an inspiration to all of us.  She must be so happy now to have her soul finally set free.

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