What Little Girls are Made of

Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment,

toughness, heart, talent, guts.

That’s what little girls are made of.

Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer

For almost twenty years, I have worked in an all girls school. Every morning I wake up, get dressed, drive to work, grab a cup of coffee on the way, and arrive at school. When I walk down the corridors, I am greeted by a variety of girls, ages three to eleven. They wear colorful leggings, light-up sneakers, unicorn headbands, wild curls and long twisted braids. They come in all shapes, shades, and sizes. And they are the hope we need in this world, especially right now. These girls dance, make marble mazes out of masking tape and construction paper, solve fraction problems, and write poetry. These girls paint with bright splashy colors, read graphic novels, make oozy green slime that sparkles, and sing like angels. They are creative, curious, and athletic. They are cheerful and face the world unafraid. They will try anything and laugh while doing it. They are the reason I come to school each and every morning.

Today I celebrate girls. Back when I was a little girl, girls were supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” I didn’t always fit that description. I was always on the move, both in mind and body. I did not sit still at all except when I was reading or writing. Then my mind would wander off into amazing places. A few years ago, I came across a book of poetry, A Maze Me by Naomi Shihab Nye. It is a wonderful collection of poems that captures the essence of being a girl. I love this collection and often share the poems with my students. I was so inspired by Ms. Nye’s work that I thought I’d try my hand at some poems about girlhood. I started to put together a small collection called – What Girls are Made of. Here is a selection.

Blue Mohair


It’s funny how a piece of clothing
Can hold a memory - 
My blue mohair sweater
With large, shiny blue buttons,
A hand-me-down from my sister -
So fuzzy and soft, the shade of blue 
I imagine Heaven to be.

That mohair sweater
I wore when I was ten,
The day my father brought me 
To the ASPCA,
Bought me a seven dollar dog -
A little black and white terrier with a curly tail,
I’d yearned for - for years!
The look of surprise on my mother’s face
When I came home with my new puppy
Nestled in my arms,
His wet nose peeking out from that
Warm mohair sweater -
Surely I was in dog heaven.





Babysitter’s Blues

When Barbara, 
our babysitter, comes
We are so happy,
She plays with us and
NEVER tires,
She makes us spaghetti 
With tiny meatballs
And let’s us have
An extra cookie.

Tonight we play
Go Fish, Old Maid,
And Hangman,
She brings art supplies:
Paper and bright blue ink
She says we have to
Be CAREFUL,
We dip our brushes in 
Gently paint the paper.

I am so ecstatic
The blue glides
Across the paper:
Blue sky,
Blue snow,
Blue house,
Blue trees,
My excited hand
Knocks the bottle over
Soon there is a
Blue puddle
Blue pond
Blue lake
Blue river
Blue waterfall
FLOWING 
Down the table
Onto the white carpet.

Barbara dives
For napkins, sponges,
Paper towels,
My sister and I 
Blot the table
Toss our blue worlds
Into the trash
We scrub the table
And chairs until
There is no trace of blue
We look at Barbara
Blotting the blue pool
That remains on the carpet
It gets lighter and lighter
But will never be white again.
I cry blue tears,
And so does my sister,
And so does Barbara.
Oh woe is me -
For woefully Mom will soon
Be home to hear and see,
Our babysitter’s blues.



Sleepless

Summer sleepover
Eight girls crammed
Into a camper
Parked in Kathy’s backyard
So we won’t disturb
Her neighbors, her parents, 
Her baby brother.
The camper rocks with excitement
As we roll out our sleeping bags
And claim our spaces
We crowd around 
The tine kitchen table 
Filled with chips, dips, pretzels,
Salsa, soda, and candy.
Crunching and slurping
Talking and laughing
Telling scary stories
Playing Truth or Dare
Dare you to run around
The outside of the camper 
Alone at midnight
Flashlights cast an eerie light
Making our faces ominous.
I step bravely outside alone
In my pajamas and bare feet,
Run around the camper panting
Inside girls are giggling
The neighbor’s dog growls
From behind the hedge
I let out a blood-curdling scream,
Seven girls inside shrieking
Lights come on!
Neighbors waking,
Parents yelling,
It’s late, go to sleep!
We finally quiet down,
Huddled together,
Whispering for hours,
Never sleeping.









			

6 thoughts on “What Little Girls are Made of

  1. Specific details such as “hand-me-down from my sister” and “seven dollar dog” create vivid images in your poems and pull me into their stories. I love your descriptions of the girls you work with, and I’m glad you read them poetry!

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  2. I think it’s incredible how girlhood has evolved through the years. It’s different (THANKFULLY) to grow up as a girl in today’s day than it was even 40 years ago when I was a kid.

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  3. Such beautiful poetry and beautiful moments, Joanne. Gosh – Truth or Dare, haven’t thought of it in forever. The scenes are all so vivid and alive – and I enjoyed following the trail of blue through young girlhood!

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  4. These are so vivid – I love how heaven is defined one way, then another in your first poem, and how effective the listing of blue things is in the second. Like Fran, I enjoyed the thread of blue that ran through the poems. Thanks for sharing these with us today!

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