Biography - Jennifer Gilbert
She plans to study Psychology for use in a Ministry career. This page is dedicated to some of the literature she has created.
Ode to My Mother
And the years have proven it true;
That the strong, young woman destined for me
Was to be no one but you.
God gave me a gift before I was born,
And during my creation, He smiled.
Because what surprised so many people,
He knew all the while.
God gave me a gift before I was born,
And it's true, we were made for each other;
For nobody else could do what you do,
And that's why you are my mother.
Jennifer Elizabeth Gilbert
There was a traveler come over the land,
You Can't Kill Me!
December 13, 1999 -- 9:20 pm
It was less than three hours after I arrived in New York that I had my first mugging. It happened in the usual setting: dark back alleyway with overturned garbage cans, a spray-painted brick wall to my left and a rusty, chainlink fence to my right. It was a freezing cold night, and my breath hung in front of me as it exited my body. Thankfully, there was no wind in that tight area, but the cold still seemed to seep rght through my gloves and shoes to numb my digits.
I was rounding the corner into that frigid little abode when I was grabbed from my left … a thin, cold blade pressed to my throat. My assailant was my equal in height and width, and I probably could've taken him down if I'd had to, but he had one advantage over me. Unfortunately, that was the one advantage that really counted, and it was currently being pressed against my Adam's apple.
“Your money, NOW!” he commanded in a low voice, “or I'll slit your throat.”
The blade tightened up painfully, and I felt the slightest amount of warm liquid creep down my chest and under my coat to stain the shirt below. “Wait!” I cried.
Not expecting this sudden outburst, his grip on me loosened, and I slid away from him. Turning around to face him, I got my first, really good look at him. He was tall, about six three, and thin, with a long thin face that looked grimy … dark, greasy hair to match. His clothes were dark, like the rest of him, with worn teeth that looked like they could use the business end of a toothbrush. “You can't kill me,” I stated.
Regaining himself after this momentary delay in his profit, he snarled, “Oh, yeah? Why shouldn't I?”
“Well, here …” I unzipped my coat halfway and started to reach into the inside pocket.
“Hey! No!” he shouted. I raised my eyebrows at him, and took out The List. His eyes widened when he saw what I had reached for was nothing more harmless than a piece of paper. “What? Did you think I had a gun?” I asked.
“This IS New York, man.” (He was so keen at stating the obvious.) “Everyone has a gun.”
“Except for you,” I said as I glanced at his switchblade.
“Shut up!” he yelled. “What is that?”
“Well, as you were so quick to point out, this is New York City,” said I, “and maybe I don't have a gun, but I am always prepared.” I unfolded the list and cleared my throat. “Reasons Why You Shouldn't Kill Me: Number 1, my grandpa has …”
“What is this, man?” he seemed irritated. “This some kinda joke?”
“Just hush,” I shushed him. “Shut up and let me read this to you.
Reason 1: My grandpa has a very weak heart, so this could put him in the hospital. Reason 2: My grandma would worry herself right in there with him, and not just about my grandpa, but also my mom, which brings me to Reason 3: My mom would have a nervous breakdown and also go to the hospital.” Looking up from the list, I said, “You'd hospitalize my entire immediate family.”
“Aw, yer breakin' my heart,” he exclaimed sarcastically, “and, anyway, what about your dad and his folks?”
“My dad isn't around anymore,” I stated simply, and went back to my list. “Reason 4: My friend, Mitch, will probably have to have therapy for the rest of his life. He's already averaging two funeral's a year, and I'd hate to be one of them. He's so gloom and doom about this death stuff, and this could drive him right out of his mind. Reason 5: My best friend, Ashton, has a rotten home life and I'm the only one that he let's everything out to. We're real close, and I know how I'd be if the tables were turned. Same goes with Mitch. Reason 6: …”
“Alright, alright!” he yelled as he charged at me, waving the knife around. “That's enough! Now give me your money, or I'll put everything you have written on your list into action.”
“O.K., alright, just let me put the list away.” I said, as I folded the list and placed it carefully into my pocket once again. Withdrawing my hand from the inside of my coat, I also withdrew something else … my handgun. Small though it was, it was very efficient, as I knew from experience. Aiming the gun at his head, I said “Now, drop the knife, homeboy.”
He gave the gun an uneasy look, but then laughed it off. “You wouldn't shoot me” he declared confidently. A dim smile slid easily across my face, and I pulled the trigger. The gun fired, amazingly loud in the small, back alleyway. The man jumped, screaming, his hands flying to his face to make sure it was still intact. Indeed, it was. The bullet had missed his head by bare inches … purposely.
Dropping the smile, I realigned the gun with his head. “I won't miss next time,” I stated. He stared at me, eyes huge and fearful, hands clutched at his mouth, motionless. The knife was still in his hand, and was, in fact, poking a small hole into his cheek, but he seemed not to notice.
“Now, I won't say it again, got it?” His head jerked up and down. He got it. The knife clattered to the ground in the dim silence after the gunshot. A nearby street lamp gleamed against the metal; a spot of light in the darkness of the alleyway. “GO!” I commanded. He went. Torn clothes flapping behind him as his footfalls echoed off the vandalized walls, faded, then disappeared.
Chuckling to myself, I checked the gun cartridge. Only one bullet left. Two was usually all it took. Tucking it into my pocket again, next to my list, I bent and retrieved the fallen knife. A good-sized number, and the blade was pretty well taken care of. I flipped the blade back in and slid that into my pocket against the gun and the list. Smiling to myself, I began to walk down the alleyway once again.
Copyright ©1999 Jennifer E. Gilbert
September 1, 2003
Agua looked up into the face of his father. Today was the first day of water, the day that every man in the village began the scaling of Mount Pellucid to quench the thirst of the dragon Gilfarst, who dwelled there, lest the dragon erupt into a fire-flow of rage. This would be Agua’s first year to partake in the traditional quest.
Agua’s father, Eau, carefully smeared the painted designs of their ancestors on Agua’s face. Their tribe, the Canali, had realized before too long that face paint didn’t do squat when it came to dragons, so now it was more of a tradition than any form of warrior-ism.
“You’re ready,” was all his father had to say to double Agua’s heart rate. He stood and picked up his satchel of water. He turned toward his mother. He knew she hated the tradition, necessary as it was. These men, her son and her husband, were all she had in the tribe, and now she risked losing them both.
“I’ll be okay.” He said, and walked out the opening of their hut. She sighed and sat down, starting her prayer of protection for them which would not end until they returned to her. Hopefully, after the yearly journey, she would have no prayers of mourning.
Agua and Eau met up with all the other fathers and sons-of-age at the bottom of Mount Pellucid. Not a word was spoken (for no words were needed) and the gathering proceeded up the mountain, traveling in a more or less straight line, as their ancestors had done years before them.
Although it was easily a two week trip up and down the mountain, no provisions were brought. The Canali tribe depended solely on the grace of their God, who always provided more than enough to eat and drink in the way of mountain plant-life and streams of melted snow coming from the top of the mountain.
That aside, the trip itself was a very hazardous one indeed. Gale force winds rocked the group of men even now, just three hours into the trip. Agua knew it would only get worse as the trip proceeded. Sometimes their God leant them a hand, and the wind shot the group up a few hundred feet with ease. Most of the time, though, it was a test. Always pushing them back, asking them to give more than they thought they could. This trip was as much a step into man hood as it was a matter of protection to the village below.
As Agua climbed higher and higher with his Canali brothers, he occasionally looked back at his home below. He wondered at how the huts grew smaller and smaller, and how much of the world he could now see. He had never been any farther from the village than the few miles to the river. To now see how far this continent really reached was a wet smack in the gut. He could see that their village was in a valley between two other smaller mountain chains, and that this particular mountain was set in the middle of a vast stretch of land. The mountains looked orange, green and silver in the fiery sun light. Even beyond that were huge pillars, set in the form of long, skinny triangles. When he asked his father about them, Eau simply replied “They are necessary for power for the tribe of our God” and kept on climbing.
Puzzled, Agua climbed on right behind him.
If the days of climbing were rough on the body, somehow the nights were worse. The winds didn’t stop, but every one else did, so it seemed even more extreme. The only way to ensure every one’s safety was to huddle up and clutch one another in a crevice, each man trusting the others not to let go. It was cold, so cold. The frigid mountain air seemed ever trying to get to the inside of you, creeping beneath the coverings and under the blankets, through the soles of their shoes, riding in bareback on the wind.
About three days into the trip Agua began to notice a foul, almost acidic smell. Figuring it was just the work of the mountain plants on someone’s digestive system, he didn’t say anything, out of respect for not wanting to embarrass anyone. When the smell didn’t go away after a day, Agua was forced to ask the man nearest him what it was.
Goutte, the largest man in the tribe, and therefore, although young, deemed the most wise, answered him, saying ”It is the smell of the dragon, pulsing forth out of the fiery crater in which it is lodged. The Beast Gilfarst has been where he is today for hundreds of years.”
“I guess I’d be a little smelly too if I hadn’t bathed in so long.” Agua replied. He meant it as a joke, but Goutte simply gave him an odd look and climbed on ahead.
As they neared the destination of their trip, the climbing grew ever more trying. The winds at the foot of the mountain were tranquil breezes compared to what they now had to contend with. Up here it seemed like the wind grabbed you and tried to pull you off the side of the mountain. Agua’s father had once told him a story in which he and half the males in the village headed out on the yearly journey, and only one fourth returned, because the winds had been so hard. “They simply fell into oblivion, never to be seen again,” Eau had said to a slack-jawed Agua.
The story had filled Agua with a delicious fear at the time, picturing the men fall into the mists of the valley, like so many rain drops to splatter on the rocks below. Now there was nothing delicious about the horror at such a thought, and Agua scolded his soul for ever finding pleasure at the story.
At the top of the mountain the ground somewhat flattened out, and the wind was a constant thing, no less strong, but not as inconsistent and therefore less hazardous. The men could walk now, rather than climb, though it was still sharply uphill. The smell of the dragon was even worse as they neared the top, and quite often Agua found himself breathing steadily through his mouth to keep from gagging.
Finally, the summit. Still in a straight line they marched past the gaping mouth of the mountain to pour in the water they had brought so far. They stood in order from oldest to youngest. Agua was last in line, and again he recalled a story his father had told him about a man that had climbed all the way up to the mountain with the rest of the men only to lose his balance and fall in at the top. “We don’t remember him for a failure,” Eau had said. “Indeed, he accomplished his task. Instead, we remember him for a fool, to have lost himself when only the water was necessary.”
Agua thought, as his turn to pour was almost at hand, that the man could also be remembered for a very important moral: keep your balance.
Goutte stood two men in front of Agua, and it was now his turn. As he went to toss his satchel into the dragon’s lair, he slipped. Had it been any other man there, they could have recovered without a thought. However, being a large man, Goutte was lost. Agua stared in horror as he slid down into the smoky abyss, screeching his fear the whole way down. The inside of the crater was not a straight drop, but more angled, so that Goutte did not fall, but more dripped down the inside of the mountain, like a huge drop of water sliding down the side of a pitcher.
As his screams faded into the grumblings of the Dragon Gilfarst, someone ahead called for the line to continue. No matter what was lost the task must be accomplished. Agua swallowed a sick lump in his throat and began again his march toward the mouth.
When it came his turn he tossed the water satchel safely (however awkwardly) while keeping the majority of himself as far away from the mouth as possible without falling down the outside of the mountain. A wicked desire to lean forward and see as far down as there was to see grasped him, and he hurried on to keep up with the line, which was now headed down the mountain again, having fulfilled their yearly task…
Sally gazed out the car window at the rainy world. Her eyes followed the little drops of water being pushed up the window by the wind, and she wondered what it would feel like to be a drop of water, clinging to the side of the flying automobile. Her mind swallowed the idea, and she began to make up names and personalities for each drop, and an adventure for them. A drip flew in her eye, and she realized that the window was not quite shut. Leaning forward to roll it the rest of the way up, she turned her mind to other things and continued to dream.
Copyright ©2003 Jennifer E. Gilbert
2003 Salutatory Address
Delivered by Jennifer Elizabeth Gilbert
Honored guests, board members, family, friends, faculty, and, of course, the Class of 2003 ... good evening and welcome to the graduation services for the Reading High School class of 2003. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you tonight.
There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first son and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two sons did what his father wanted? This is a parable from the Bible (Matthew 21:28-31). It’s a situation involving a decision. We, as graduates, now have many decisions to make. The difference between our situation and this parable is that no one is asking us to do anything. Sure, we’ve all had people inquire what our plans for after high school are … what college we will attend (if any) … where we will work. We all have plans, dreams and goals of some sort. Now we come to the decision. Will we do as the second son did, and say we will make our lives what we want? Or do we do as the first son did, and put our plans (even the ones we don’t know about yet) into action?
Tonight we are at the pinnacle of possibilities. We’re old enough to have experienced some of life, and to know who we are and where we want to go. Yet, we’re still young, too. We haven’t yet made our mark in the world, and we have so many chances. Those chances won’t last, and it’s our time to take action now.
The other day, I received a book from my mom entitled A Gift for the Graduate. Inside were inspiring and thought-provoking stories for people like our graduating class here tonight. I’d like to paraphrase one of these stories for you, as it leaves us with a particularly appropriate thought as we begin our journey into a new chapter in our lives. The title of the story … ‘It Is As You Will’.
There was a hermit who lived all by himself. The boys that lived in the neighborhood nearby loved to torment the hermit, and would often ask him questions to try and confuse him. But the hermit was wise and not easily fooled. This just made the boys try all the harder.
One day, one of the boys found a bird with a broken wing. The boy nursed the bird back to health and took it to his friends, saying “I‘ve got an idea. Let’s really fool that old man. We’ll go to the hermit and ask him if this bird is alive or dead. If he says ‘dead’, I’ll let it fly away. If, however, he says ‘alive’, I’ll crush it in my hands.”
The boys were all agreeable to this, thinking that they had the old man no matter what he said. So they set out for the hermits house, and when they got there the one boy asked, “Old man, what is this I have in my hands?”
The hermit looked carefully and answered, “It seems to be a bird.” Laughing, the boys said, “Yes, it$lsquo;s a bird. But can you tell me, is it alive or dead?”
The hermit looked at the bird. Then, he looked in the eyes of all the boys, and settled on the one holding the bird. “It is as you will, my son,” he said. “It is as you will.”
Tonight, we step forward. We can crush our dreams with waiting and planning. Or we can make our dreams fly. It is as we will. Nobody can take that from us, nor can anyone force us to do it. It is as we will.
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