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the whole kit and kaboodle by kit chase

I came home for lunch one day expecting to play a game of euchre on the computer, but found it occupied by a busy child typing a school paper. "Mom, would you look at my piece and see what needs to be changed?" asked my son, the college freshman. I was almost in shock. He hadn't asked for help with his homework since the second grade. "Goodness!" I wondered, "What changed?"

son by beth yarbrough
by Beth Yarbrough

Looking at him I could see it was size, for one thing. I think he was barely 4 feet tall in the second grade and now he's a whopping 6-foot-3-inches. He's driving and holds a job making his own money. But one thing hasn't changed. His room is still messy.

I glanced at his paper and read through it rather gingerly. I could immediately tell he had some unnecessary repetition of words.

I'm happy he can write an essay. Some people have trouble putting their thoughts to paper; thinking they have to be perfect the first time, and so it takes them hours to write two sentences. Never do they suspect that most writers have to revise and revise and rewrite before they come up with a passable passage.

In the case of journalism, I feel it's more like writing on the fly. Or as one journalist said recently, she once wrote an article quickly with paper on her knee, sitting on a milk crate in a store's back room.

My son was writing a comparison between two of our dogs. There were several "really," "great," "wonderful," and "a lot" words. A reader would come to think that those two dogs of ours were saints. I can remember them as puppies, when they chewed up shoes, books, socks, and stuffed toys, as well as some of my husband's tools. I suggested he delete the extra words, which would tighten his sentences and bring the reader closer to the story. He must have thought it a good suggestion because he did it.

I was thrilled, remembering a time when he would never have asked for such help.

I recalled trying to homeschool him for kindergarten and first grade. I don't think he liked my teaching style. Every time we were to start his lessons promptly at 9 a.m. he was on top of the shed roof, not willing to come down. For one so young, he rebelled against the discipline I tried to maintain. It probably served me right for being such a learning Gestapo.

As a young mother I remember looking forward to the day my children went to school, and I could help them with their homework. Well, it never happened. Once was enough and they never asked again. To this day, I just can't figure what went wrong.

Looking again at my son's paper, I saw several of his verbs placed in a past tense that wasn't necessary. I tried to explain that by doing so he removed his reader from his story. Precisely, it was writing such as "have had noticed."

What thrilled me to my motherly bones was that he grasped and understood what I was trying to explain, and made the corrections.

"Hooray!" I had a connection with my son over homework. I was so happy I could have danced an Irish jig, but refrained for another time when no one would be watching.

Contemplating the change in our relationship makes me think he has come of age to appreciate his mom, but to be truthful I think his mom has come of age to appreciate her son's accomplishments.

Kit Chase lives in Gainesville, a small rural town in north central Texas. She is married to Tom Chase and together they have four children. Her career in journalism didn't begin until after she reached 40 and walked into the town's only newspaper office applying for a job as a reporter. Five years later she created a position as managing editor at a newly formed weekly paper, The North Texas Journal. Kit's interest in writing has always been part of her life, fostered by her mother when she was younger. She and her family participate in the local community theater Butterfield Stage, and have appeared in numerous productions. She has written a murder mystery comedy for a dinner theater, which was produced by Butterfield in 1998. A favorite hobby of hers is the card game euchre.
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