Shut Up and Write, Kathleen!


When JP (not her real name) told me her grandmother would be coming to parents evening, I had no idea that this older woman would become a central character in the novel I now intend to write.

Teaching the first Art History “O Level” at St Mary’s High School in Highgate, Jamaica I was (at that time) intent on expanding the students horizons regarding Caribbean artists as well as others listed on the exam that would arrive in a brown envelope from Cambridge. These were the days before Caribbean exam boards.

It was also the days before I knew about a strong black culture of grandmothers. When JP’s grandmother made her way into I my classroom I had a feeling it was she who would be doing the teaching. 

She eyeballed me straight and I sat down, ledger of her granddaughter’s grades in hand.

“I’m not interested first of all,” she announced, “ in JP’s grades. Tell me how she behaves.”

With no hesitation I was happy to report that JP was a model student. 

Grandma nodded, still not smiling. 

“Does she apply herself?”

I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. “Pardon?” I replied.

“Does she work hard? Do her best?”

“Yes,” I said, knowing full well JP wasn’t particularly fond of art.

“So now.....” grandma paused, forming the next question for my grilling, “what grade is she earning?”

“Somewhere near a C at this point,” thinking JP was a hard worker and was mid-range in the marks.

“Well then.” Grandma stood up, dismissing me from my review of her precious granddaughter, “she can run in the Commonwealth Games.. but if things change let me know. She knows that it’s in school she must prove herself if she wants permission to run.”

The next day in class I stopped by JP’s desk for a moment. “Thank you for being a good student.” JP looked up, quite shyly smiling. She seemed to know what I meant. I wouldn’t want to keep one of the world’s high performing runners out of a qualifying race, but I couldn’t lie either. Grandma would catch out the both of us in a heartbeat.

JP did receive a good, honest mark in all her school work whether or not she was terribly interested in essay topics. Even the PE teacher reported how generously she did what she was told in track and field exercises. She did all the “plodding bits,” as I called them, and grandma drove her to the airport to join the other members of the Jamaican team in their international meets. We teachers and other locals even gathered around a tv in a bar and cheered her on as she did her nation proud. I remember thinking as I watched her run, “Run young lady, run. For plodding through my class, for being a model of grace and good manners and respecting a grandmother that demanded you do your best and earn your right to her support, I applaud you all the way. Totally free to run with the best and be the best in what you seem to be born to do.” 

As I have now passed the Procrastination Stage of Writing (earlier blogpost), and the Preparation Stage (earlier blogpost), I want to just have my own attitude check for “the plodding bits” of my own life, especially when it comes to heading into a time of full on freedom to just write. I’ll be sitting and not running, and I’d be horrified if I thought someone might be watching from the sidelines; but I think I’m ready  to work hard, do my best, apply myself and get out there and run the race that Father God has set for me. 

Prayer: Father God, help me to plod through the necessary stuff that really doesn’t interest me but is important in my calling. May I in the novel I’m about to write, honour JP’s grandmother both in the story as well as in the manner I hone my craft. May I have the right attitude, doing my best, applying myself to hard work with no excuses. May I have a few quiet smiles,  just knowing I can just get on with it now and run- I mean write- in freedom. Love, Kathleen 

 Kathleen is about to have her first two books on
                                             Parents on the Move! And Beyond Broken Families 

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