….some (more popular) school attendees may have achieved lofty social status by becoming school icons: Prom Queen, Homecoming Queen, and (for those of us into junk food at the time – or living rurally [which did not happen in San Francisco, btw]), Dairy Queen.
But me, I had a Secret Identity. I was The Footnote Queen.
My superpowers came to me at an early age, inspired by my creative writing teacher Mrs. McGillicutty, who always admonished us to “Cite your SOURCES.”
I heard and obeyed. Albeit likely not in the manner she had envisioned.
I discovered that contrary to my creative writing teacher’s efforts to ‘put the ‘creative’ back into writing’, there actually was little ‘original’ out there in the world. EVERYTHING had a wellspring – and it apparently didn’t stem from Yours Truly’s pen, either.
What was a budding young creative writer to do? Why, I followed Mrs. McGillicutty’s advice and made absolutely certain ALL existing, potential and even future sources were cited.
That is how I came to turn in a 1-paragraph essay on my 2-week visit to Massachusetts (ostensibly for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, but in fact transformed into a blitzkrieg operation conducted under the dessert table [with its satisfyingly-long tablecloths that reached nearly to the floor, effectively making any perps conveniently invisible right underneath their greatest objects of desire. It was like having a secret passage under the bank vault.]) filled with PROPERLY FOOTNOTED CITATIONS. And Author Commentary.
As with most of my early writings, I commanded Peer Attention from the first moment of my oral report. My creative writing teacher had taught me the basics well:
(a) Grab their attention with a riveting headline. My report banner COULD’VE read along the (more mundane) lines of “My Massachusetts Vacation” or “What the Mayflower Means to Me”; but really – would you actually read (or listen to) such drivel? So instead I employed the Elements of Good Writing which embraced mystery and drama. To wit: “Diane’s REAL Truth About the Plymouth Rock Myth. An EXPOSE.” (Believe me, even Mrs. McGillicutty was all ears ….)
(b) Create tension. No problem. My opening paragraph (indeed, the entire report) read: “American history would have it that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and took their first big step onto American soil. Or more specifically, onto a BIG ROCK that THEN led to American soil. (Or maybe the rock WAS a part of American soil – just harder. And bigger. Who really knows: it was a LONGLONG time ago.) Be that as it may, personal inspection of said American icon has revealed that Plymouth Rock should have more aptly been named ‘Plymouth Stepping Stone’. “Rock” is simply too kind a word to apply to something which is hardly a foot’s length and breadth. (1) (2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)
Thus in the first (and only) paragraph I supplied my first FOOTNOTE (…and more. Once again trolling for an ‘A’).
Footnote #1 led to Webster’s definition of Plymouth Rock, which neatly skirted the entire size issue whilst IMPLYING square footage the size of a small house: a myth which unfortunately exists to this day (in West Coast classrooms, that is: school kids in Massachusetts can just GO VISIT and get the lowdown before said myth gets too outta hand. We observed hoards of kids CRYING at Plymouth Rock, their little illusions shattered by cruel reality, before we even got outta da car.)
Footnote #2 noted the apparently dual definition of Plymouth Rock as “any of a U.S. breed of medium-sized single-combed domestic chickens raised for eggs and meat”. (THAT is where the size implication apparently originated.) Neatly segueing to:
Footnote #3 (= a Question. Always include a Question in the body of any report to assure your ‘A’. i.e.:) Did the Pilgrims bring Chickens to the New World? Facts are hazy on this one so I extrapolated that yes, fowl were rampant on the Mayflower and the amount of pooping and squawking evidently led to a hastier voyage and a vote (nee: revolt) that culminated in choosing to throw ‘em off the boat at Plymouth over continuing the (less satisfying) search for spices that would inevitably lead to dubious culinary magic by the Mess Cook.
Footnote #4: …and what about the Mayflower’s culinary menu?? It was up to Captain Christopher Jones to make sure his crew was well fed for the voyage; so what was up with the scurvy bit anyway? I call it “lack of preparation”.
Footnote #5: you can be sure if Christopher’s younger brother CHRISTOPHER ROBIN had been in charge, the food would’ve been better. Reference: Honeypot and Pooh, leading to:
Footnote #6: I DO know Pooh hadn’t been invented yet, but likely Captain Christopher Jones was THINKING of Pooh and more specifically ALL of those delicious honey pots. Because Poor Planning leads to Scurvy.
Footnote #7: Disclaimer: I have no clue on what ‘scurvy’ actually is and medical analysis is totally beyond the scope of this report, so suffice it to say ‘scurvy’ always occurs on a too-long voyage where the Mess Chef and Captain are in cahoots to funnel the best food onto the Captain’s Table even as the crew contemplates a food fight and revolution at the back of das boat.
Footnote #8: See Diane’s followup report “The Invention of Denny’s: Bad Food’s Early Voyage to America.”
Footnote #9: All the above facts – aside from Author Commentary – can be located in Webster’s OR the following website (which didn’t exist back in my youth, so you had to go to the good ‘ole library for a Paper Version: the SnailMail version of Research.): http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mosmd/
After such dutiful footnoting (which resulted in some 5 pages of commentary and bibliographical references) I was DONE. But Mrs. McGillicutty also had taught us to add a Compelling Closing Statement to any writing piece. One that left the reader hankering for a follow-up.
Thus my closing sentence:
“In conclusion: there is simply SO MUCH to write about concerning The Myths of the Mayflower that you simply must stay tuned for Part 2 in Diane’s 10-part mini-series, tentatively entitled “Animals on Board” OR ‘Take Back the Night: When Even the Animals on The Mayflower REVOLTED’. And partially ate everyone. Which produced Zombies. Who set foot on a stepping stone they braggingly called Plymouth Rock.
I sat down to cheers. And earned another ‘B+’ with the simple admonition “…interesting use of FOOTNOTES.” And the Further Commentary “…I never heard the words ‘zombies’ and ‘Plymouth Rock’ in the same report.”
(1) funny thing, my mother ALSO frequently paired the word “interesting” with my activities.
(I THOUGHT I saw Mrs. McGillicutty’s shoulders shaking in the back row as I correctly and precisely diagrammed my footnotes on the provided chalkboard. But ONLY a B+??? My dad would be furious and I had spent ALL AFTERNOON documenting said footnotes. It was simply UNFAIR.)
Teachers are SO dumb!