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Jennifer Peterson


Jennifer Peterson

This is a found poem made of lines from my 7th graders Ultimate Gift personal narratives. All of the words are their own.

noun: a person whom one knows,
likes, and trusts

I watched the car leave
the blazing sun on my sweatshirt
the stiffness of my legs
the empty feeling in my gut
appreciative of every moment
…moving forward


That is when it kicked
into my head.

Friendship is
what you do for others
the most tremendous gift of all


Giving it back
…and not asking for anything in return

A gift you cannot replace


Grandpa’s Hands


Grandpa was a laborer his entire life, dropping out of school after 8th grade to work on the farm to support his family, then later to serve his country in WWII, before going back to school to train for his career as a carpenter.


Grandpa had a gift for creating beautiful family heirlooms from simple pieces of wood. Among these, Mom’s china cabinet, which holds her wedding china (and the bills and bank statements tucked between the front ledge and glass) and school papers retired from the refrigerator; and the built-in bookshelf in the living room that holds some books but mostly family photos and scrapbooks.


Over time, Grandpa’s hands came to be like the tools he used to work his magic. When I think back to the many summer vacations and overnight trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s, I most vividly remember the mornings as I sat at the small kitchen table, eating my Oh’s, and Grandpa coming in to the kitchen to greet me with a couple of hearty pats on the shoulder and “Good morning, kid!” This simple show of affection felt more like a nail being pounded by a hammer to my fragile ten-year-old frame.


Grandpa’s hands remained sure and strong until the cancer that started in his stomach, and spread to his brain, seized the strength from the rest of his body. By Thanksgiving that year, his hands that once maneuvered power tools with precision struggled to keep his fork steady, rebellious kernels of corn refusing to go quietly to his mouth.

Later, getting up out of his favorite burnt-orange recliner once more to say goodbye with a pat on the back (gently this time), hardly more than a feather’s breath on my now sturdy 23-year-old frame that had carried me through college, getting married, starting my fledgling teaching career, and being the first in our family to finish graduate school.

“Goodbye, kid.”

I returned his gentle pat, conscious of his frailty, careful not to pound too hard.

“Goodbye, Grandpa.”