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Monday, October 31, 2011

I'll have to do something else between . . .


Mark and I just got back from a much needed trip to Virginia, where we took night time walks under a clear, dark sky, and I stood in the middle of the street behind my parents' house, trying to drink in the air. I wish I could bottle it up, that East coast fall, and smuggle it back to Texas. My mother didn't quite understand why I grabbed the blankets from the couch and took them outside, so that we could lay down on our backs on the cold, wet grass and look up. Unlike the light-polluted skies around the Houston area, my parents' sky looks three-dimensional; you can actually tell which stars are nearest. Laying back and looking up, you can almost feel their orbit, it gives such a different perspective.

Likewise does reading stacks and stacks of old diaries, going back as far as the 6th grade. My mother practically forced me to go through "all that stuff," as she calls it, and I was dreading it. Winding through bits and pieces of old stories and parts of novels from my childhood and teen years was a little like being on a "This is Your Life" episode. Old friends, lining up to greet me, old friends, whom I'd romanticized until I read them again and collapsed into mortified laughter. There was the little green diary I kept at 13, where I dutifully recorded my struggles with my grades, as well as the ongoing saga of my first crush, complete with the number of words he and I said to each other, and whether we said them in French, Spanish, or English. Then there was the "novel" that my friend Kelly and I wrote, a scintillating mystery story about two female FBI agents that bore just a little too much resemblance to Nancy Drew. And there was one of my mother's diaries somehow mixed in there too--from 1959, when she was all but sixteen and writing letters to "Hector."

"Who's Hector?" I asked, and my mother laughed.
"My Spanish pen pal." She said, and I admit I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to discover some long forgotten romance, some juicy story that would set my mother apart and color in her another dimension. But the letter was written for her Spanish class, all those years ago, and apparently vetted by the teacher.

And then somewhere in the middle of an old plastic crate, I found that 6th grade diary. Pink, floral, with the words "Memories are Forever" written in fancy lettering beside a little girl holding a friendly raccoon. I opened it and laughed at how simple I was, how the smallest things meant so much back then, and how I was "in an awful state" because "everyone is yelling at me, even at school." Then I turned the page and saw, on the 11th of April, 1983, the following declaration:

I have decided what I want to be when I grow up. I'll have to do something else between, but I want to be an author. I have written a bunch of short stories, and Kelly and I are writing a sequal to our first book, The Haunted Hotel (a mystery book). I am very imaginative, I think!

April 11, 1983. Nearly thirty years ago now, and yet I've never given up on that dream. And even though I just turned forty and am still yet to be published, I am not sorry for following it. I've listened to God and my heart and bent my ear to the wind, and I have always recorded the whispers. That "something else between" sometimes takes over my life, and I struggle to find a balance, but I keep on. I keep on for the little girl I was then and the young woman I was a decade ago, and all the women I am and will continue to be. I keep filling the pages and leaning into the wind in the hopes that it will land on the page in spite of me, and that somehow I can capture those things that aren't tangible, like the turn of a leaf of a Virginia tree or the way the air feels when it dampens my cheek.

And maybe somewhere in that I'll find me.

3 comments:

Ronlyn said...

A few years ago, I went through my old writing dating back to childhood. I burned nearly all of my journals, but I kept the stories I wrote, putting them in chronological order. That was good for some laughs.

I remember sitting in my third grade class writing a story and having this "knowledge" that I would be a writer when I grew up. Twenty-eight years passed before I published my first novel, but it happened.

Keep going!

Laura Harrington said...

What a beautiful essay. Thank you so much. You are inspiring me to look at my long-ago journals to uncover the seeds of my writing self.

Colleen Thompson said...

Lovely post, Kathryn. It's a lovely thing to revisit those early efforts...even if it sometimes raises a blush. :)