Cast of Thousands, chapter 20
As they arrived at Social Studies, Ms. Woods sorted through a pile of papers on her desk and began handing back their essays on family.
"Everyone did a really good job on these," she told them reassuringly. "Since it's your first real long paper of the year, I wrote plenty of comments on them, and you can revise your paper and turn it back in if you want to raise your grade."
Jessica felt a little queasy at this. If their papers were so great, why would they have to revise them? Ms. Woods handed hers over. She got an 89, circled in red at the top, and then so many comments in the margins and the body of the text that she could barely read her own work.
We are a pretty normal family with two parents and one kid (girl) and one cat (tabby). We live in a house together and do normal family stuff like go on vacations and to the library and grocery shopping. Good beginning. You're establishing the scene. The second sentence here reads a little awkwardly: grammatically, it is correct parallel sentence construction but you may want to reorganize your list of activities so it reads more smoothly.
Everybody's family is different, even the "normal" ones. Excellent point: there is no true normal, only society's expectations and projections of normal. Some families you only like their dad and some families the mom is nicer. Grammatical bugaboo here - IN some families, not just "some families." Additionally, it would be better not to use "you" - you could use "I statements" and just talk about your own experiences with different families, or use "one only likes" if you want to use the impersonal and more formal tone. "You" creates an assumption about the reader's experiences. Some families have a lot of pets and some have a lot of rules. Good - a little humor with the unexpected comparison between pets and rules! There are three big things that are different about my family:
1. It has two moms.
2. One of my moms is really a lot of different people so really it has a bunch of different moms. This is an interesting statement.
3. It has me in it! Good conclusion to this section. Surprising and upbeat!
Most families with two moms have trouble deciding what the moms are going to be called. Some families decide they should just both be Mom, or Mommy, or one of each. This is true, but it's hard to tell what its relevance to your essay is because you spend a lot of time giving other examples before you talk about your own family. However, a reader who knows very little about alternative families might benefit from this slower introduction to your own. Either way works, as long as you know who you want your audience to be and keep the same intended audience throughout. Some of them use their names, like Mommy Beth and Mommy Mabel, or just have their kids call them by their first names. (Mabel and Beth.) I think you may be overexplaining here!
In our family it was easy. Nice segue. They both liked "Mom" because it sounded so normal so they picked Mom for my regular one-person mom and Moms for my mom who is lots of people. This comes off as a very confusing statement upon my first reading. After re-reading, it makes more sense; however, you may want to move your explanation about MPD up to an earlier point in the essay. It would also read a little more smoothly with a judiciously placed comma. When I was litle spell check! I added my own name for both of them which was Momomms. I wanted to say Mom-or-moms but it was too hard to say fast. Sometimes I call them "my one mom" and "my many moms."
The fancy explanation for my many moms is that "my mom has MPD" which is multiple personality disorder. Capitalize the words in the acronym! But Moms says that is like saying "My two mothers have homosexuality," because it's not a disease that needs to be fixed, it's just a word for what people are. Like lesbian or gay. So instead of saying "I am a homosexual with MPD" she says "I am multiple and lesbian." Good explanation and use of quotes and examples. And then we get to go to the Gay Pride Picnic every year and stuff! Ah, fringe benefits.
Plus our family gets to be bigger than it looks. I get lots of moms, and friends who play with me. Some people in her system are even like my sisters. This is hard for a lay person like myself to imagine and understand, but I'll take your word for it -unless you want to expand this into a much longer paper!
It confuses people sometimes. They see that a kid my age is there instead of a mom and they think Moms is weird for acting like a kid or that I'm lucky to have a mom who will play with me. Sometimes I call people in there by different names because they have their own names, like Kitten, who is little and bouncy, or Jack, who taught me how to ride a bike, and that makes people REALLY confused. But I think it's more important to treat them like themselves and be who I am with them than to worry about what other people think. Even though that's hard sometimes.This is a very mature observation, Jessica. Kudos.
I guess most people would think that it would be really different and hard to have two moms and no dad. I know it's supposed to be totally scary and I'm supposed to get made fun of so much for it, but we live in Davis. Ha! So much said with so few words.
It's not like I've never heard kids calling each other "lesbo" or "fag." But I had pretty much the same friends in my class all through elementary school so by the time they were old enough to think it was weird they knew all about it already and were totally used to it. How old is "old enough to think it was weird"? Also - at this point in the essay your use of "it" becomes a little confusing You've established two main ways in which your family is different - make sure you keep them sufficiently separate for the reader. For example, it seems clear from context that you mean your friends were unfazed by your parents' lesbianism, but how do they react to your "many moms"' multiplicity? Does it present itself as an issue, and if not, why not?
So I have a pretty ordinary life. Is this sarcasm, humor, or a statement of fact? My mom takes me on big shopping trips in Sacramento, or around the bookstores downtown, and lets me help her build the furniture that she sells sometimes. In this example, which of these people is your mom? Kitten and I play with makeup and dress-up games and dolls. Kelly is the everyday person that I call Moms, and she makes special holiday food (even though Mom does most of the cooking) Is "Mom" the same person as "mom"? I'm unclear on your use of capitalization. and worries about me and helps out with my Girl Scout troop and makes sure I'm okay. Dorian is another mom who's more laid-back. She is a really good guitar player and she is going to teach me how to play. She even writes her own songs. Uncle Jack doesn't visit very much but he taught me how to ride a bike and he is very nice to be around. Gail is older than me but I'm catching up to her! I think I am pretty lucky to actually be able to catch up to my big sister. Indeed! Tommy is four and he likes fire trucks and Moms says I am so good with him that I should get to start babysitting soon even though she doesn't know how she'll explain how I got all my experience! This paragraph paints a fascinating picture. You show a good use of details to illustrate fact both here and in the opening paragraph of this essay.
That is the people I see most of the time in my family and what it is like to be in my family. I hope it seems as nice to you as it does to me. Enjoyable essay, Jessica. You have very interesting insights into these dual subjects and the third subject of "normalcy." I imagine there are many people who would be fascinated to read about lesbian families and MPD from your unique and clear-spoken perspective.
She spent a great deal of the class time worrying over her paper, until Ms. Woods actually had to stop her own lecture to tell the whole class that they should stop stressing out about it.
"There are a lot of comments on your papers because they were good. That tells me you're all good students and you can do even better. There is always room for improvement, even for the best writer in the world."
Half the class sighed with relief; the others began worrying that there weren't enough comments on their papers.
"Maybe we need to have a unit on goals and academic pressures in our society," Ms. Woods remarked drily. "While we're on the subject, I would still like to invite anyone who would be interested to read their essays in front of the class. I think we'll do them as part of the rewrite process, to give you all a little more support. So if you want to do rewrites, they'll be due next Monday. On Thursday or Friday we'll all get together during class time and share our experiences writing these and let anyone read aloud from theirs if they want feedback from the rest of the class. If you need my help, I'm always available during lunch or after school as long as you come schedule something with me ahead of time."