EDITORIAL: Best brat

My grandson called a while weeks to ask me about writing a poem. He’s a sixth grade student at Delano Middle School, but this wasn’t a school assignment. He’d learned of a contest for children in military families. His father is a Navy Chief working out of Fort Snelling, and his mother was enlisted when they met.

“Is there a prize?” I asked him. Not that there needed to be, I was impressed enough that the ruff-and-tumble little boy I knew was actually interested in writing something without having his feet held to the fire.

“Well, yeah, the winners get to meet this guy from that show, you know, Saturday Night Live.”

Really, I thought. Which one? Seth Meyers? A distinguished alum? The possibilities were endless.

“When do you need it?” I asked.


Ah, that was more like it.

He had the first couple of stanzas down, but didn’t really know where to go from there and was looking for a critique. From a writer.

I was flattered.

“I know you’re not a poem writer,” he said, “you’re just a regular writer, but I was thinking you might be able to, you know, see what you think.”

He didn’t have to ask twice. I listened, gave him the go ahead and suggested he find a way to pull it all together for a big finish. I few phone calls later, a couple of emails, and he had what I thought was a solid sixth grade entry. I gave it my “just a regular writer”, and grandmotherly, stamp of approval and wished him luck.

Daniel Menchaca reads his poem “Life of a Navy Brat” to Senator Al Franken.
Daniel Menchaca reads his poem “Life of a Navy Brat” to Senator Al Franken.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter called me with the big news. Her son, the light of my life, had won his age bracket and would be receiving an award at a special ceremony in St. Paul.

“Who’s presenting?” I asked her. I figured I’d tag along, shed some proud grandma tears and get to rub elbows with a famous comedian.

My plan came to fruition, but my biggest laugh came when she told me the SNL cast member her son was referring to was Al Franken. I would have thought “US Senator” might have found its way into the conversation we’d had earlier.

The comedian/statesman was a fun host and had the kids (and parents) chuckling before they got down to the serious business of reading their work aloud. There were different age categories, and I bit back tears for every finalist’s entry. Senator Franken explained that his wife had come up with the poetry contest to recognize the sacrifices children of military families are uniquely familiar with.

When it was over, and we were walking out to the car, Danny said, “I think you should try being a poetry writer, Grandma.”

I said, “I think you should could consider it, too. But, if we’re going to run in these circles, let’s use the word ‘poet’.”

A Walt Whitman in the making? You’ll have to judge for yourself, I’m a little biased.


Life of a Navy Brat

My dad is in the Navy,

This is my sixth school

Life hasn’t’ always been gravy,

But sometimes it is cool


My dad has been deployed many times

Facing danger in strange lands

We never know when he’ll return

That’s just something out of our hands


Every year a new home, a new school

And starting out from scratch

Looking for a place to fit in

And for friends that are a match


My mother and my sister

Share this life with me

And whatever place I move to

I still have my family


I think about my father

Risking his life for those he’ll never know

I’m proud to be a military son

Wherever I may go