I stumbled across this writing prompt and thought it was worth including on this blog. A little over a year ago, the leader of one of my writing workshops shared the piece “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston. She then challenged us to take five minutes and write our own version. So, here’s my five-minute piece. It’s not exactly in the same league as Hurston, but I still highly recommend this writing exercise.
There’s a difference between a “pen” and a “pin.” I don’t know this until Mom gives me lessons on pronunciation. Apparently, you say “pen” – with the /e/ sounding like it does in “egg” – when referring to the writing instrument and “pin” – with the /i/ sounding like it does in “interesting” – when talking about something to fasten your clothes together. West Virginia me doesn’t know the difference until New York Mom trains her in it.
When I go to school in Massachusetts, I have no accent. My college buddies don’t know where I come from — until the moment I get up from the table and say, “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna get a pop.”
Total silence and all eyes on me. “What did you say? Don’t you mean a soda?”
When I start teaching in Washington, D.C., I can’t understand my kids. “Scoot your boots” means nothing to me until the day I say, “Hurry up, kids. We need to get to the classroom now.” Trevor, one of my sixth graders who’s full of sass and stands exactly even with my 5’ 4”, looks me in the eye and says, “Don’t you mean ‘scoot ur boots,’ Ms. Mallory? ‘Hurry up’ sounds stupid.”
Now West Virginia me is all of these things: “pen” and “pin” — pop and soda — “scoot your boots” and “hurry up.” She lives in Pennsylvania, but still hollers “yeah!” or claps her hands each and every time she drives beneath the “Welcome to West Virginia sign,” heading for home.