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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Knots in my Yo-Yo String

While on vacation, in the beautiful Cayman Islands (my beach view), I read Jerry Spinelli’s Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid. My little sister, Elizabeth came prepared with plenty of books, one of them being Knots in my Yo-Yo String. I started the book thinking it would be interesting to see the kinds of books my younger sister was reading. I don’t know what I expected, but after I read the 148-page book in a couple of hours I realized that the book was not shallow and flowery as I had expected, but deep and reflective.

To be honest, I think this book is better suited for young adults and adults than it is for my 5th grade sister. The story is the retelling of Jerry Spinelli’s childhood and teenage years. Of course I can see how my sister could enjoy the short descriptive sentences and humorous anecdotes, but I don’t think she could grasp the importance of the things Spinelli remembers and the feelings he had growing up. While reading this book, the three things that stuck out to me the most were, 1. He does not have memories of actually learning. Any mention of school is directly connected to an event like a spelling bee, prom, or playing on the playground during lunch. 2. His relationship with his younger brother. 3. His “List of 16 Things I Wished I Could Do”

Similarly to Spinelli, I took a few moments to reflect on my time in school. Below are the first memories that popped into my head from each grade. 1st grade I think of the reading loft my classroom had (the only one in the building) and that my teacher was also named Alison. 2nd grade I remember talking about the election between Bush, Clinton, and Nader. In our mock election, we chose Nader, probably because we liked saying his name. 3rd grade I learned how to read a chapter book. 4th grade I remember a clean up game we played, “Magic Garbage” the teacher picked a piece of garbage that was on the ground and the student who picked it up would get a prize (an eraser, pencil, McDonald’s toy, etc.) 5th grade I remember my amazing teacher Mrs. Beck. She gave us an assignment to make an “All About Me Book” it was the first time I could really be creative on an assignment and I remember being so proud at how neat and well executed it was. From middle school I remember the basketball games, my teachers, and memories with friends. High school I remember my Academy class, mostly my classmates and the feeling that I get when I am surrounded by their incredible minds. I will also remember the packed gyms at basketball games, and going to prom my junior year. Reading Spinelli’s book helped me reflect on what stands out in the 12 or so years of schooling. I can see why some memories stick, but I wonder why out of all the things I could remember, I remember “Magic Garbage” and that my teachers name was also Alison.

In the book Jerry Spinelli admits to not having a great memory of his relationship with his younger brother. I have an abundance of memories with my 14 month older sister, Emily, but when it comes to my 8 year younger sister, Elizabeth, I feel the way Spinelli did. Spinelli, however, enlisted the help of his younger brother while writing his autobiography and asked him what he remembered of their childhood. Much to Spinelli’s surprise, his brother produced beautiful memories of him and Jerry such as Jerry letting him ride on his handlebars. This makes me wonder if our bike rides to the Dairy Bar or picking her up from soccer practice will be things my sister Elizabeth remembers. Jerry’s lack of memories he has with his younger brother also makes me cautious not to miss out on the memories I can still have with Elizabeth.

The 16 things on Spinelli’s list were as childish as “Spit between my front teeth” to as profound as “understand eternity” So, to my readers I ask what was on your list of things you wished you could do when you were 10 years old? I know some of mine were to be as fast and athletic as my sister Emily and to be as adventurous as my little brother, Bobby. Please comment on my post or simply state what was on your list as a 10 year old or what is on your list now. Is there a trend? Is there a big difference?

It is a new year; reflect on yourself, your life, and your memories.

Until next time…



  1. Great post Ali! I think this works with the new year very nicely :)
    First off, I think it is so refreshing that a book meant for younger audiences could be so meaningful. I haven't really read books that I read when I was younger in quite some time, but your post makes me interested to reread them and see what new things I grasp now.
    I love that you went through your educational career and shared some memories with us. Mine would be pretty similar to yours in a lot of ways. When I think about my younger elementary school years I remember odd specifics, like certain substitute teachers or picture day. When I think back to junior high I remember lots of drama that seemed epic then, but is childish now. And when it comes to reflecting on high school, I feel like I've had a million memories -- most noteworthy would be Academy, Kairos, Spain, and the friends I've made that I could never imagine how I used to live without.
    As for the relationship with younger siblings, I know one of my concerns with going off to college and then really growing up is that I won't be around when my little brother Nathan is growing up. I want to be here when he starts first grade, has his first crush, takes a real test -- I don't know, every little thing. I think I struggle with the fact that I have so many great memories with him from the last four years, but he likely won't have very many at all. I sometimes contemplate writing him letters that he can read later when he's my age :)
    As for your questions at the end, I think that when I was 10 I probably aspired to be the best ballerina I could be, see my family happy (my parents got divorced when I was in 1st grade), and have fun. I grew up a lot the year I was 11, so going back to age 10 is pretty nostalgic and heart-warming because things were still relatively simple, which is what I think I miss most.

    Great post again, Ali! It really got me thinking and I appreciate that :)


  2. @Jamie: Thank you for such a great response! I am happy that my post got you thinking, I really enjoyed writing the post and reflecting myself. I would agree with your memories. I remember there were times that I thought a test or a fight with a friend would be the worst thing in the world, but it is funny how time changes things. I am sure you will find a way to stay close with your family, as well. In the book I was reading, the younger brother remembered things that the author didn't remember. Small acts of kindness were the things his brother remembers, and when i try to look at things through my little sisters eyes, I can see her remembering similar things, which i am sure will be true for Nathan as well. I really like your idea of writing letters though!

    Thank you for sharing, Jamie!