Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday's Children - When I Realized Words Had Power


When I was 8, my parents got divorced (hang with me, people - I promise this isn't going to be a tale of writing my first story in a misguided effort to get my parents back together) and my mom went back to school and moved us to a trailer park near the college campus.

Our brand new, Champion trailer backed up to a heavily wooded ravine where my brother and I spent most of our time playing. The trailer park was filled with a lot of hippies, college students and hippie college students. For the most part, everybody was pretty friendly, particularly the stoners, and it wasn't a bad place to live. Our super-awesome babysitter, Suzanne, lived right next door and my mom's friend Pragati would come over and cook Indian food for us while my mom helped her study.

One night, Pragati brought over her boyfriend. He was a psych student who was interested in the effects of divorce on children and this dude (can't remember his name, but there was a major Tom Selleck mustache going on) wanted to know if I'd be interested in writing about my feelings. Well, I wasn't interested in writing about my feelings, but even at the tender age of 8, I had trouble saying "no" to people. The next day, Tom-Selleck-Mustache-Guy brought me my very first blue book - you know, the kind you use for essay tests in high school and college - and told me to write about my feelings and encouraged me to draw pictures if I wanted to. He went on ad nauseum about how it was okay to express my sadness and anger and how important it was to do that.

I sat outside under our picnic table, carefully wrote my name on the cover, then I drew pictures of all the animals, trees and flowers in the ravine where I would have rather have been playing. After I filled in every available space on the cover, I opened the booklet to the lined pages and tried to write about my feelings. After about five minutes, I realized I didn't want to write about my feelings. My feelings were fine. We were all happier after the split and it seemed stupid to pretend otherwise. I'm not saying that I didn't miss my dad, but even as a kid, I could see that the whole divorce thing was a good idea. But this guy expected me to be crushed, in fact, it seemed like he not only expected me to be crushed but wanted me to feel that way. Jerk. Who knows - maybe he was writing a thesis paper and I was his subject.

So, I took my pencil and wrote. I wrote a story about a beautiful witch who lived in the deep forest in a small, stone cottage. She had a lot of pets - cats, dogs, cows, horses, mice, unicorns, deer, foxes and bears. She held lovely magical tea parties for the local children (who apparently lived in the forest...) and grew flowers and pumpkins in her garden. Unfortunately, a man with a mustache came to the witch's little house in the woods and asked about her feelings. Her pet bears ate him.

Now, I'm not saying this is the moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was the moment I realized that written words made a difference. Tom-Selleck-Mustache-Guy went away and left me and my feelings alone. I knew then that there was power - a kind of magic - in stories, and I knew that I wanted to experience that kind of magic whether I was reading or writing it.

Please join the Thursday’s Children Blog Hop and tell us what inspires your writing!

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13 comments:

  1. <333 That! What a great story. OMG, he must have been gobsmacked. My parents divorced when I was 12 and I would have very much appreciated some bears too, I'm a pretty private person about my feelings and always have been.

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    1. Thank you so much! :) And I'm a firm believer that sometimes bears are really the only answer.

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  2. I'm sure he was spending all kinds of time analyzing it--the witch represents so-and-so, etc.--then he gets to Mustache Man... Love it!

    I also love your background on this blog and want to steal it...

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    1. I wish I knew what he thought when he read it. :D

      Now you know how I feel about the header on your blog! I love that photo. :)

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  3. What an awesome story :)

    I had those workbooks too. I used to always draw crazy stuff in them and write barely-comprehensible stories about Batman :D

    I'm sure you must have had a lot of interesting experiences at that trailer park, especially with the characters hanging out there. THAT would make an interesting novel!

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    1. Thank you! You know...now that I think of it, that place would make a great setting for a novel. There were some fun times there. :D

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  4. This is my favorite "beginning writing" story ever. Lol...what is it about adults that they assume they can just tell a kid what to do? (ie: here's a book, write your private feelings down and then let me see them. haha)

    Love that you made the bears eat him!! Good for eight-year old you!!

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    1. LOL - thank you! Hopefully, he learned something from that little exchange, too. :D

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  5. Great story. And now I think I want pet bears, too!

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    1. Pet bears are definitely the way to go! :D

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