Bloomability

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Dinnie arrives in Switzerland homesick, scared, and stubbornly refusing to enjoy herself. Throughout the course of the year, however, Dinnie not only becomes comfortable in her new surroundings, but also sees the appeal of the new experiences, struggles, and opportunities presented to her. After eighteen years of teaching and writing in Europe, Ms. Creech and her husband now live in upstate New York. The statements and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author s. All About Adolescent Literacy. Home About Us Contact Us. Text Size: A A A. Bloomability by Sharon Creech. Bloomability by Sharon Creech About the Book Bloomability, by Newbery medalist Sharon Creech, tells the coming-of-age tale of Dinnie, a thirteen-year-old girl uprooted from her parents' nomadic lifestyle to spend a year in Switzerland.

Guide provided by Harper Collins. Possible Discussion Questions Why does Dinnie refer to her time with her parents as her "first life," and her time in Switzerland as her "second life"? If her "third life" begins at the end of the book, how do you think it would differ from the first two? To Dinnie, Switzerland is a strange and unfamiliar place that grows to feel comfortable. What similarities does she discover between Switzerland and her various homes in America? What differences? How do both the similarities and differences help Dinnie appreciate her experiences there? After Guthrie is rescued from the avalanche, Dinnie has a dream that her bubble is gone pp.

What does that signify to Dinnie? How do the preceding events lead up to this revelation? Explain the contrasting perspectives of Lila and Guthrie, taking into consideration Guthrie's story of the two prisoners. Dad got to name any boys they had, and Mom got to name the girls. Or Crick either. Mom named her first girl my sister Stella Maria. Then I came along, and she must have been saving up for me, because she named me Domenica Santolina Doone. My name means Sunday-Southern-Wood-River. I was born on a Sunday which makes me blessed, Mom said , and at the time we lived in the South beside woods and a river.

Domenica Santolina Doone. In the kitchen, Grandma Fiorelli was steaming on. They could be in a school like the one your sister works in. What does he do, anyway? How are you going to get out of this mess? She was bellowing like a bull by this time. Answer me that! She barreled on. Falling down, peeling walls?

And so we followed him around, from opportunity to opportunity, and as we went, Crick got into more and more trouble. According to Crick, some boys in Oklahoma made him throw rocks at the school windows, and some boys in Oregon made him slash a tire, and some boys in Texas made him smoke a joint, and some boys in California made him burn down a barn, and some boys in New Mexico made him steal a car. All kinds of boys: tough ones, quiet ones, nerdy ones, cool ones.

The Marine was going overseas. Stella started eating and eating and eating. She got rounder and rounder and rounder. Dad was on the road, Crick was in jail, and Stella was having a baby. And that was the last week of my first life. I rumbled along and then I was in the bottom of an airplane next to another box which barked. There was a dog biscuit in the bottom of my box, and when I got hungry, I ate it. My mother, who assisted in this kidnapping, said I was exaggerating. They swooped down on our little New Mexico hill town and stayed up all night talking to my mother.

With me was my box of things, and we drove to the airport in Albuquerque. I was still pretty much in bubble mode. It seemed that all around me was a smooth bubble, clear enough to see through, but strong enough to keep me inside. It was like a huge transparent beach ball. On the car trip to Albuquerque, the pores were closed, sealed off. Defiant pores. Uncle Max gave my box of things to a woman in a uniform. When the plane started speeding down the runway, I closed up my bubble tight, ready for the crash.

I bent over and held my knees in crash position, which is what a little card in the seat pocket told you to do. Aunt Sandy patted my back. Then the front of the plane pointed up and the whole thing, people and all, lifted up and we were flying. My nose was against the window the whole way, all across the country. I was up in the sky and we went right through clouds and sometimes we could see puffy white blankets of clouds below us, and sometimes there were no clouds and we could see mountains and rivers and lakes and roads.

There was green land and brown land. It was a miracle. In a car it all starts to run together and you could be anywhere or nowhere. In the plane, you saw it all spread out beneath you, a living map, a wide, wide living photograph, and you were suspended above it and you knew where you were. You little dot. Or rather me: Dinnie the dot. I felt as if this were happening to someone else.

The next day, that Domenica Santolina Doone person got her picture taken and applied for a passport, and two weeks later, we were in an airport again. This time we flew into the night and over the ocean, and in the middle of the night, suspended over the ocean, the sun came up, zip, and it was morning before the night was over, and we ate real food, not dog biscuits. The plane swooped over jagged snow-covered mountains and landed without crashing in Zurich, Switzerland. A foreign country. Domenica Santolina Doone in Switzerland. It was an opportunity.

Trains lined up side by side like a row of cattle cars, and people climbed in, climbed out. We stood under the departure board. She looked like my mother, but she was all dressed up in clothes that matched. He looked like someone in an advertisement, clean and neat, even after our long flight. I was wearing the remains of my dinner on my shirt. These shoes had a mind of their own. They kept clunking into each other, making me trip, and I had to stare down at them and order them to point in the right direction.

I felt as if I were trying to keep two little kids from squabbling with each other. All around us people rushed, calling to each other in German and French and Italian. Mostly it sounded like achtenspit flickenspit and ness-pa siss-pah and mumble-mumble-ino giantino mumbleino. And then I realized that I recognized some of the Italian words—Ciao! My mother said these words sometimes.

I wanted to stop, to listen to what everybody was saying. Maybe they were saying, Fire! I could fade into the crowd, be pushed along through the tunnel, into the city. I could roll along in my bubble ball. I was used to moving, used to packing up and following along like a robot, but I was tired of it.

I wanted to stop moving and I wanted to be somewhere and stay somewhere and I wanted my family. A small brown bird darted back and forth under the domed ceiling. At the far end of the station, near the high ceiling, was an open window. I—little adaptable robot Dinnie—followed Uncle Max aboard and the stationmaster closed the door behind us. A whistle blew. The clock on the platform clicked as the train slipped away from the station, and I slid into a seat opposite my aunt and uncle.

Oh, Switzerland! The train rushed out of the city, around the edge of the lake, through a deep green valley, and then up, up, up into the mountains. Through dark tunnels. Up, up, up, crisscrossing the mountain, and down, down, down. Gushing waterfalls came into view and then vanished. Clear rivers raced beside the train, looping and curving alongside the tracks.

Little houses looked as if they were stuck into the side of mountains, planted there, blooming up out of the ground. Aunt Sandy called these little houses chalets. Chalets—it was a smooth word. I said it over and over in my mind: chalets, chalets, chalets. It made me sleepy. Through the Alps the train rushed, as if on a mission, urgent and efficient. I started wondering if I could get used to moldy bread.

A nibble of bread, a sip of brown water. I could adjust to that. Then I thought, No! On the train, we passed a man and two children fishing in a mountain stream, and I had a rolling pang of homesickness. He loved being outside. Caught the day! Three hours later, the train rolled through gentler valleys and pulled into a hillside platform. We stepped out on the platform. Across the street, and down below, the city of Lugano curled around a lake. Two mountains towered over the city, and their shadows fell across the water.

The mountains stood dark against the sky, like giant guards. No sign of a prison yet. The hill was green and brown, the road was gray. From the outside, the villa looked dignified and sturdy and vast and frightening. Pale stone walls, iron balconies, tall black-rimmed windows. In the book, a princess was locked in a tower of the villa. Inside were dark wooden floors and dim, narrow hallways. Doors and shutters creaked and groaned. Dusty portraits lined the halls: grimfaced men in black robes stared directly, accusingly, at me, and some faced sideways, ignoring me.

In the dining hall ancient armor and weapons splattered the walls: shields and spears and helmets, ghastly dark shapes. I listened for sounds of captive princesses. This is the place that Mrs. Stirling had chosen to set up an American school for students from all over the world. We crossed a courtyard and climbed a hill. We reached the Via Poporino, a narrow paved lane, and passed a yellow house, a gray one, a pink one, and then stopped in front of a white one with a red roof. A chalet. It was cool and dark in the narrow entryway. Red tiled floors. White stucco walls.

The far wall was a bank of windows and glass doors. We followed her through the glass doors and out onto the balcony. That evening, pale lights shone all the way down the hillside and crisscrossed the mountain opposite, like a string of Christmas lights. A single red light blinked at the top. It would all be new to him. I stared across at the mountain, huge and dark and vast. Later I would be able to look at this view and to see it and appreciate it, and it would affect me profoundly.


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The baby cried and cried. On the mountain opposite, my father was looking through binoculars. Uncle Max had told me we were in the Ticino, and in the Ticino people spoke Italian. In other parts of Switzerland, he said, people spoke German or French or Romansh.

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He shrugged. It was a story that a boy, Guthrie, had told me the day before: There were two prisoners in a jail cell. They each looked out the same small window. Beneath my feet was a crumbling stone path, splattered with rotting persimmons. Pieces of the orange fruit were stuck to my new shoes. Wasps dived in and out of the fruit, and a lizard darted along the edge of an old stone wall. What did the lizard see?

Could he see only the path and rotting persimmons and wasps? Then I looked up, like the second prisoner must have done. Ahead were palm trees lining the path, a blue sky with puffs of white clouds, and hills rolling toward the blue lake. Switzerland curled along one shore, and Italy sprawled on the other. On top of Mt. San Salvatore, the red light blinked, and on top of Mt.

Guthrie had said that by October there would be snow on the top of Mt. This seemed weird, that I could be standing in Switzerland and see Italy, and it was weird that palm trees and snow could be in the same scene. And it seemed weird that I was in that scene. Then I could look in the windows of our house and see my mother and father and Stella and the new baby. When a persimmon fell on my head, interrupting my dream, I yelled at it and at the tree overhead and at the wasp that zoomed in on my hair.

He had a mission. Could he see sky? Did I have a mission? If I were in prison and looked out the window, would I see dirt or sky? There was still a week before school opened. Guthrie had said he was dropping off his luggage and then going on to stay with friends in Milan until then. I thought he was older than I was, but he said he was thirteen, just like me.

I copied the gesture, and he smiled. There in no time! You should try it. I circled the campus on the first day. Tomorrow I was going down the hill, to the church of St. I was like a cat, scoping out my territory. This was something I did automatically, every place I lived. Guthrie had asked where I was going until school started. It had slender pale green and white leaves, stretching upward, and dozens of offshoots, which Aunt Sandy said were its children.

The children had little roots dangling from them, in the air, as if they were reaching for the soil. That was me, I thought, a little plant with my roots dangling in the air.

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That night I looked up kidnapped in my new dictionary. There were several choices, and I chose portare via a forza and made a new sign. Is that what you wanted to say? But neither of us could figure out how to change take by force to taken by force. Next I tried Help! I wrote. You know, as if you are inviting the burglars in to take all our belongings. Is that what you meant? They Mystillfather live in Bybanks, Kentucky, the town in which both my father and I were born.

Grace and Tillie were always big on writing postcards and letters, keeping us filled in on their news, but still I was surprised to receive a postcard from Aunt Grace just a few weeks after I arrived in Switzerland. Dear Dinnie, I hope you arrived at Switzerland okay and did not have any hijackers on your plane. How is it there?

Do you need to speak Switz or what? Have you been fishing yet? Do you have different food? I made pot roast for tonight. I was wondering if you have to wear those leather shorts and kneesocks or is that just boys? Are you still fishing? Once, when we were driving from Oklahoma to Oregon, or maybe it was from Oregon to Texas, we stopped at a rest stop, and when I came out of the bathroom, the car was gone. In the parking lot, a couple and their three children were climbing back into their camper.

You scared us half to death! Just past the far edge of the school campus, the road zipped left, dipped past a clump of old stone buildings, and zipped right. Then I could see the church spread below, and beyond that the hill dipped to the lake. Across from the church was Mt. San Salvatore. It was odd how the mountain seemed to loom there. From my bedroom window, it seemed that the mountain faced me, the house. But from this different angle, there it was again, the mountain, but now it faced the church. A loud, dull thundering, followed by its echoes through the valley.

Soon there was another Boom! They do it every weekend. I was standing on the road near the church, listening to the continued booms in the valley. Leading up to the church was a walkway, a long, narrow path, with a double row of cypress trees lining it. The trees were tall and thin, like dark unlit candles stretching to the sky. Midway down the path was a girl. She was wearing a white shirt and shorts, moving slowly along toward the church, as if she were being pulled toward it by an invisible rope.

By the time I reached the path, she had entered the church. The only sound was the distant hum of cars along the autostrada across the valley. All else was quiet. No birds, no people, nothing but that hum. It was five minutes to ten. The church door was open.

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Inside it was dark except for a spot of gold light coming through a round window high on the far wall. It was cooler here, and even quieter, and I listened for sounds of the girl, but I was thinking of Stella and Crick and my parents and the new baby, listening for them, too. I stood at the back until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. Gradually, I made out the row of dark pews, the center aisle, and then I saw her, sitting at the far end of a pew.

We were in America. I went back outside and leaned against the cool wall. Just as the girl came through the door, the bells began tolling the hour. She looked at me and up at the tower where the bells were swinging. That was always a hard question to answer. Did people mean originally or most recently or what? Imagine living here all year. She laughed—a laugh that began way back in her throat as a soft bubbling, and then it rolled and curled out of her mouth and into the air until it wrapped the trees and bushes.

I would have laughed with her, but I was sure that my own laugh would sound inferior in comparison.

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Guthrie, that was his name. You know what he did? He invited me to go to Milan with him. What a crazy guy. As if my parents would let me trundle off to Milan with some stranger! He seemed nice, though, you know? On my second day of school in California, I told a girl that I had a crush on one of the boys. Well, let us tell you something. Mine came with strange brown things on it. Very salty. They looked like smashed centipedes. I picked them off and hid them under a piece of crust.

We could say anything, and no one would understand. I liked being with her at the outdoor table, as if I had a friend, squeezed in among so many strangers. In the center of the square, a juggler was tossing red balls. Pigeons pecked and wobbled across the pavement. On all four sides of the square, tall buildings stood.

That mountain had seemed to stare at me, and it was so dark and big, always looming there, blocking out everything behind it. I would sometimes be caught off guard, thinking about something else—maybe the bells of St. What if I adapted completely, what if I forgot about them, what if they forgot about me? Lila introduced me. Beyond him, a slim Crossair jet slipped through the slot of the valley, skimming low, like a slender white and red flying fish.

As I left, I turned to look at them one more time. Lila was facing her father and his finger was pointed at her, as if warning her. She patted his shoulder and laughed, and I could hear that laugh as I walked back down the hill. The bird was laughing, laughing, laughing. It was flying toward the mountain. And then I slipped through a hole in the cloud and fell down, down, down. I never landed. I woke up. She said she was a hundred and five, but she was joking.

Some people guessed sixty or sixty-five or seventy. She had a puff of salt-and-pepper hair and always wore low-cut black dresses, a long string of pearls, huge sparkly earrings, and spiked black heels. This was her uniform, altered only occasionally and only slightly, with the exchange, say, of spiked red heels for the spiked black ones. Her house, Casa Stirling, a rambling four-hundred-year-old stone building with a tall bell tower, sat on the edge of campus. She also had homes on the campuses of her other schools in France and Spain and England, and she had a villa in Italy, and she spent her life dashing from one school or home to the other, usually spending a week at a time at each.

Stirling drove a blue Volvo and was known for careening around curves and challenging the speed limits. If she was in a hurry, she took a plane. I first met her on the day the boarding students arrived for the opening of school. She took both my hands in hers and said I had a charming name and a charming face and she was enormously pleased that I was at her school, and she was enormously pleased that Uncle Max and Aunt Sandy were there, too. Stirling breezed toward us, fishing in the bodice of her dress as she did so. From within her dress, she retrieved a tube of lipstick, which she opened and applied without a mirror—that impressed me and then stuffed the lipstick back inside her dress.

I think there is a problem about the tuition. Will you fix it up with the business office? You and Max and Sandy. Had I gotten his name wrong? Stirling tapped his name tag, which read Guthrie. Why must you insist on being called by your last name? Peter Lombardy Guthrie the Third. Stirling said. From behind him stepped Lila.

This hit me wrong. Why was I the stranger? I was no more a stranger than she was. She was wearing a white cotton dress and sandals and looked very clean. A stranger, I wanted to say. Just like me. Lila reached up and tugged at a tiny pearl earring. She sounded offended. I am the founder. Stirling turned to Uncle Max. Stirling waved at someone across the patio. By the time Uncle Max straggled home that evening, he had a list of twenty-three things that Mrs.

Stirling had requested be fixed or changed. Instead he seemed revved up, charged, as if he wanted to get the year under way and he wanted it to be brilliant, as brilliant as Mrs. Stirling expected it to be. He reminded me of my mother, of how excited and eager she would be each time we reached a new town. She was trying to read the directions on a cake mix.

Would you hand me the Italian dictionary? Stirling had a house in Italy, I linked her with my grandma Fiorelli. You are the granddaughter of Mrs. You know where she came from? Where she came from? Good question. I forget. Stirling invited us to go to her house in Italy, did you hear her?

And I want to wait and see if we still have jobs come next week. He loved everything—classes, sports, field trips, food, people. But most of all, he loved Switzerland. You might get people knocking at the door for a haircut. Aunt Sandy flipped through my dictionary. Or blockhead. It seemed so clever of them. When I heard a boy command his dog to sit: Siediti! Me, I stumbled along tossing out the few words I knew: ciao! And even when I did manage to get out a whole question in Italian, their answers sounded like mumble mumble-ino.

In school most of us took Italian lessons. My brain would not accept that the spelling of a word such as red would change, depending on what it was describing. Sometimes red was rossa, sometimes rosso. And the innocent little word a was sometimes una, sometimes uno, sometimes un. A red car was una macchina rossa, but a red boat was un battello rosso.

Some nouns like car, una macchina were feminine; some nouns like boat, un battello were masculine. How did you figure out which words were masculine and which were feminine? Why was a car feminine and a boat masculine? How did those little Italian kids learn all this? Two days a week we had conversation in Italian.

I have two pens. How many pens do you have? I wondered about these things from time to time. Aunt Sandy would hear the thud and tap at my door. I showed the letters to everyone, but no one else could read them either. They were very, very black. Dear Dinnie, Thanks for your card.

I never got a stamp from Switzerland before! I hope you go fishing soon. Maybe you should just go fishing by yourself. Gotta go make some jello. Grace is coming over, bringing some of that awful pot roast with her. Lila had been assigned a room with Belen, a returning student. Lila phoned her parents in Saudi to complain. I want an American roommate. If it bothers you, let me know. And Belen will learn some English and some things about Lila. Lila will settle down.

She and Lila will end up best friends. Now Belen was mad, and she, too, demanded a room change. And then suddenly, after three more days of storming and fuming, Lila switched gears. It was the same with Lila and the sports requirement. She had signed up for tennis, but was assigned swimming because tennis was full. Other students called her a spoiled brat behind her back, and they stayed clear of her. And now, when I was with her, I felt as if that was where I was supposed to be. It never occurred to me to walk away from her or tell her to shut up. Being with Lila was like watching a movie.

At home sometimes I felt as if I were two people. She was just Lila. Had they moved on by now? Would they tell me when they moved? Maybe she just missed being in a home. It was not a good idea. I thought this was a good sign, that she was making an effort to be friendly. But it all fell apart at the dinner table. You could choose another language, in addition to the required Italian, if you wanted.

I hate Spanish. Do you know what they do? They talk in Spanish all the time. She managed to cover most of the nationalities in the school. I could tell that Aunt Sandy was annoyed. She looked as if she were holding herself in her chair in order to keep from leaping over the table and strangling Lila. Most of them have lived all over the world. Hardly any of them care if a person is American or not. I walked her back to her dorm. Italian words were floating around inside the bubble, bumping into Japanese words and Spanish words.

The bubble wall was getting thinner and thinner. Here comes the pistol. Lila and Guthrie were in two classes together. Often I saw them walking together after class, and what surprised me was that Guthrie was usually doing the talking while Lila listened. When I was with Lila, she talked—or complained—and I listened. There was one whole page from when we lived in Ohio, about how to take a bus.

Just listen. Wait and see how people talk and then talk like them. I listened, and I expected the worst, most of the time. In Oregon she wrote, Dress plain the first day. Wait and see what people wear, and then dress like them. What a boring way to live. What I liked about them was that Guthrie was complete Guthrie through and through, and Lila was Lila through and through. Guthrie was like no one else. He pronounced libero like this: LEE-bear-oh.

Lila was different in other ways, in ways that made people hate her much of the time. But what I thought was interesting about her was that she was always Lila. Lila and Guthrie, though, seemed to already know who they were and they were already living their lives. I felt like Miss Average. I was neither tall nor short, neither chubby nor slim. People often said I had nice eyes, but no one knew what color they were. What color is that, anyway? On my report cards, teachers usually wrote things like Coming along and Satisfactory work and Very observant and Ought to speak up more.

Here everybody was from different places, not just me. Most of the people were new, not just me. Everybody had a different accent, not just me. Lots of people were nomads. Nomads were normal!

During the class day there was a dress code, and everyone dressed pretty much the same, not in uniforms, but in plain clothes. The boys wore sport coats and ties and plain slacks; the girls wore skirts or slacks, and regular tops. The classes at the Swiss school were small, no more than fifteen students, and some of my classes only had ten students in them. At my other schools, my teachers would eventually discover that I had huge gaps in my knowledge. Some students my age knew calculus, but others, like me, were still struggling with multiplication and division. Some were fluent in three or four languages, but some, like me, were still trying to figure out what an adverb was in their own—and only—language.

If you were having trouble in something, you could go see a teacher during a free period, and the teacher would explain things to you. When I was having trouble in geometry starting about the second day of class , my geometry teacher introduced me to Sonal, a sophomore girl.

Another thing that was different about this school was that it was cool to study and to try out for the play or the soccer team or swim team. You could go to Florence on an art history trip and stand around and learn about paintings and architecture. You could go to Milan and see an opera. Abbondio cemetery and stood at his grave. In some of my other schools, it had been cool to go to the mall or to the movies or parties. It was cool to take a test without studying.

Those things were definitely not cool at this school in Switzerland. If you got caught with even a piece of drug paraphernalia on you, you got expelled. Just like that. At first I thought this was severe and cruel. In the first month of school, four students were suspended and one expelled. But after that, nothing. It was easier for students to refuse temptation.

He said we were here to learn. If we wanted to mess around with our bodies and our brains, we could do that somewhere else. Not every student was friendly, and not every teacher was kind. My science teacher was Mr. Koo at home, Aunt Sandy called him Mr. So not everyone was kind and not everyone was friendly, but most people were, and even more startling than that was that so many people wanted to show you how to do things—not things like how to burn down a barn or smoke a joint or steal a bike—but things like how to swim or develop film or climb a mountain.

My mouth was hanging half open most of the time. The chaperone was our Italian teacher, Signora Palermo. She was young and wore jeans and a Tshirt which said Viva Italia! I liked the way she said Viva: VEE-vuh! She punched the air twice with her fist when she said it: VEE-vuh! It was October, but we were having a sudden hot spell. We climbed an arched Roman bridge and leaped off it, down into the clear cool green water. We hiked across a grassy ridge and all around us were the tall jagged mountains, beige and purple in the haze.

He made us all climb out of the van and breathe the air. It sounded very funny at the time. He made her stop in Locarno for gelato, the smooth, creamy ice cream that slid down your throat. And all the way, I was having double vision. My bubble was fairly bursting by the time I got home, what with all that stuff crammed in there.

It was of a girl fishing by a river, and the girl was me. Hope you are being better than me. How much does it cost to mail a postcard to Switzerland? Been fishing yet? I got a bum knee. Take care of your teeth, honey. Lord have mercy! A path led into the woods. About a quarter-mile along the path, Guthrie stopped.

There was a sign beside a climbing frame made of thick branches. Beginners cross it three times, intermediates cross it six times, and advanced cross it ten times. Hand-over-hand he made his way across and jumped down at the end. And then we continued on. At regular intervals along the path were exercise stations.

At one you clambered over tree stumps, each one a bit higher than the next, and at another, you walked across a slim beam suspended two feet off the ground, and at another you crossed a swinging bridge. It was the most amazing thing. It was like a grown-up playground in the woods. Occasionally we met other people doing the percorso. We wound all through the woods like this, up and down hills, along cliffs and then veering back into the trees.

And on we went, the path looping all through the woods in one big circle so that we ended up back where we began. The day after Guthrie had taken me to the percorso, I went back on my own, toting my fishing rod. I cannot even begin to say why I liked fishing so much.

What I liked was casting the line and then sitting there, watching the water. And that day as I sat on the riverbank, what I saw was my father and my mother and Stella and Crick and the new baby and even Aunt Tillie and Aunt Grace. One by one, I saw them. They were in my mind, but they were more real here, as if they were floating out in front of me, rising up from the water.

And while I was seeing them I had two contrasting feelings. One was complete happiness, as if I was back in a comfortable place with people I knew and who knew me. The other feeling was complete and overwhelming homesickness. It was as if the two feelings were taking turns, and I was waiting to see which one would win. In the end, neither won. They were both still there, but I packed them away inside my bubble and headed home. He was full of surprises. He was slim and quiet, unlike the bounding, talkative, athletic Guthrie, but he and Guthrie were friends and they seemed to balance each other.

I think about it. Plumpy seemed a better description than plump, and bloomable sounded much more interesting than possible. When he said running in my ears the bells, we knew exactly what he meant, and it seemed exactly the right way of saying how the St. He and Belen were always together. She looked eighteen instead of thirteen. When I asked her why, she shrugged. At night I would beam them images of me, thinking, Here is where I am. Here is what I am doing and what I am thinking.

Can you see me? And then I thought how surprising it was that once, not very long ago, Guthrie and Lila and Belen and Keisuke had all been strangers to me, and I to them, but already I felt comfortable with them, and they were becoming as real to me as my family.

Was I adapting? Was that a good thing? Because if I could replace them, then they could replace me, too. And then I made a long, long list of all the things I was remembering about them. Finally, because I was feeling very soppy by that time, I added a P. Where is Dinnie? I was just about to add some people to the scene, when I heard Mr. Bonner say that a character in the story we had just read was struggling, and it was that struggling that made the character interesting.

He wondered if we agreed with him and if we knew what the character was struggling with. Bonner said. Any idea what this character is struggling with? Too slow legs! Is he struggling with himself? I found myself listening carefully. It felt as if there was something—right around the corner—maybe in what someone would say next—that was a key to something that mattered to me.

Whatever that something was kept slipping away, though. At the end of class, Mr. Bonner gave us our homework: to write about what our own struggles were. So that night I spent three hours writing about my struggles. No struggles! I wrote about struggling with homesickness and with figuring out who I was. On and on I went. I was full of struggles! And that made me so happy: If I was full of struggles, maybe I was interesting! The Dreams of Domenica Santolina Doone I was bound up with ropes and chained to a wall, and I kicked and struggled, trying to get loose.

I was not going to be defeated!