My #2 Pencil

by Alyssa McCauley
All the girls had the pretty pencils;
the ones wrapped in dogs, cats, little hearts, and stars.
I had the bright, yellow #2 pencils,
which had been meticulously sharpened
by my grandmother,
using the old, hand crank sharpener
that was bolted to the wall
in our kitchen.
I imagine that, even then, as she sharpened,
her hands shook.
People have said that her jobs are what made her sick.
I wonder if it was her first job that caused her condition?
Or maybe it was another.
Her first job had been in the army,
which had granted her global travel.
Maybe she picked up her black lungs in another country.
Or maybe it was the factory,
the one that afforded her
to rent that quaint,
white-sided trailer
on the outskirts of town.
Or maybe it was that other factory,
where she met her husband,
who later gave her five intelligent children?
As a kindergartener,
I stood, peering into our classroom cubbies,
holding my #2 pencil
with blushed cheeks.
My grandmother always told me
that they were the best kind of pencil
that they wrote nicely and had strong tips,
but I dreamed of the day
when my pencil would have hearts too.
A couple of weeks ago,
I went school supply shopping, alone.
My eyes rested calmly on
the most beautiful package
of sharped wood.
They came in bulk,
and distinct design.
After adding them to the cart,
I felt so lucky.

In class today,
I used one of them for the first time.
I quickly took notes
with a blushed heart
as I held my #2 pencil.