Monday is the beginning of a very long school session for my daughter. An over-achiever, she wasn’t satisfied with two associate degrees (English and Art) so she waited for her college to consolidate with another and offer BA programs. Since she doesn’t drive, a fear left over from a severe childhood illness, and Dahlonega–where the “home campus” –the only campus offering an Art BA–is located–is much too far from our home to drive every day, she has opted for a BA in Writing and Publishing. (Her mama is so proud. LOL) This means classes five days a week for Spring semester, and possibly six days a week for summer semester.
This semester she’s taking four literature courses, therefore has about thirty pieces of required reading. With the exception of the plays of Shakespeare, these are all entire novels. Daunted? Not at all. You should have seen the smile on her face, the glee in her voice as we exited the campus bookstore with two large plastic shopping bags filled to the top with her required books. Overjoyed doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Now, she is usually a purist—one who must OWN a book she’s going to read as opposed to a lowly one who borrows a book from a library. Knowing this, I evilly insist that she accompany me to the library every two weeks where she must endure her peasant mother checking out books. I have to have my glee , too. Besides we do spend a good deal of time and money in actual bookstores. It is my living, after all. However, that being said about her, it isn’t that she thinks it’s beneath her to use library books, only that if a book is worth her time reading, she should own it. I love that about her.
So, you can imagine my surprise when she requested I take her to the library at the beginning of her holiday break to check out about a third of the books on her reading list. Despite the fact that she was on the other end of every job I was doing, plus many of her own, during pre-Spring Semester cleaning, not to mention, Christmas and New Years and being sick for over half of the break, she’s managed to read about nine of the works. Today, she started Wuthering Heights and will be finished in a few hours. (I can feel my dear friend, Pam, cringing from here.)
Still, knowing how much reading she still needs to do, and despite knowing classes start back tomorrow—if it doesn’t snow or ice over since we’re expecting a low of 7*. Yes, you read right. 7* in Georgia—she took hours yesterday creating an entire jar of blogging encouragements.
“Mama, you don’t have to blog every day, but you have to blog at least once a week. You’ve done a lousy job of blogging so far. I’ve made these for you to help you come up with ideas. The reds are questions. The white are idea words. And the blue ones are quotes. You’ll blog once a week. No excuses.”
Et tu Brute?
I raised you, you evil child. You’re not too old for me to spank—to which I received an incredulous look then suffered her raucous laughter. She can’t run, nor can I. She felt safe. So, in deference to her hours of hard work, today, I reach into the elephant jar and pull out the first piece of paper. A red one…
“Why do you write?”
Huh. No crickets. This might not be so hard after all.
I’ve always loved words more than pictures, though, I have always adored pictures. My father worked late most nights, came home when we’d either be getting ready to go to bed, or had just gone to bed. Didn’t matter since I’d get up as soon as I heard the door click open. My tiny brothers would have already gone to sleep, silly things, so this was my ten minutes with Daddy before I had to be a good girl and go back to bed. He’d swoop me way up—I remember hating one of our neighbors when I was four because he proved to me, my dad wasn’t the tallest man in the world—and promptly carry me to the medicine cabinet. I’d pick out a bottle, and the name on the label would be my word to learn to spell by his arrival the next day in order to earn my next word. I still know how to spell Merthiolate! Spell it, not like it. I liked Bactine. Bactine didn’t sting. For the very young uneducated, Merthiolate and Mercurochrome were those antiseptic remedies people used in the olden days. They came in little bottles, with amazing little glass tubes magically fixed to the lid and used to paint, yes, paint the wounds with either reddish or orangeish dye, and stung so badly you wanted to amputate whatever appendage was attached to the bleeding cut or scrape, no matter how small the wound might be. Seems the FDA banned the OTC sales of both of these because of a little poisonous ingredient…mercury. I knew it all the time! I kept saying, “Stop! You’re killing me.” Oh, and I still remember how to spell Mercurochrome.
About this time, I learned that I could make up stories as well as the ones that were read to me by my mother, a voracious reader then and still, God love her. When I’d visit my grandfather, a large—his shoulders went from here to there–weathered man—so many hours spent in the sun, it made me question my fair skin and snow white hair when he had to be Native American–a farmer to the core, who was often spare with his smiles and generous with his hugs and had a laugh that could make the most irritated smile— would plop down in his recliner, pull me onto his knee and request a story. I was all too willing to set down a tale or two. I soon realized I could make up a story and keep my younger brothers entertained for a time and as I grew older I adored the story writing assignments in school.
But what I didn’t enjoy were the words…”and they lived happily ever after.” Excuse me. What the heck does that mean? What happened the next day? And the next? What exactly did they do that ensured their happiness for the “ever after” part? Why in the world would anyone stop a story??? Say it’s none of my business. Say it’s their private stuff. But don’t hint that they had other adventures after the ones they just shared with me and leave me wondering. None of your business, that I can accept, a bit rude, but well, okay, but how do I know they’re not lying to me???
So, I’d devise a not so happily ever after day as punishment for their rudeness. Most of them were princesses, however, who lived in castles, and no matter how much their babies spit strained carrots and peas at them or how dirty I got their fancy dresses, they just had servants to come along and clean it all up. It wasn’t very satisfying.
By sixth grade, I started making up scenarios that were “better” than the ones in books I read, and I read a lot. I’d even come up with new characters that were “missing” from those stories, and then, of course, as it always happens, they’d start demanding their own stories. I remember my childhood being full of notebooks…I LOVED getting new spiral notebooks or clipboards, pencils and pens. While I liked my Barbies, I had no idea how to actually play with them. I’d learned to knit and crochet in the third grade, so I dressed them. So, “thank you, but I’d really rather have a book, a notebook, or a record might be nice.” (Thus began the marriage between my writing and listening to different music for each story.) Being grounded…I had a mouth on me…was bliss. Imagine being sent to my room where I’d be surrounded by my books, my writing, my music and be actually allowed to close my door and keep all my little brothers and sisters…out. Silly parents, if you had really wanted to punish me, you’d have made me play Barbies with them. Oh, wait… maybe they weren’t punishing me after all. Maybe they were believing in me. Hmmm.
So, why do I write, my darling daughter? Because all these characters in my head keep demanding stories of their own, and not writing them out of my head will cause either Schizophrenia, or one of the character torturing me with Merthiolate. Since I want neither, I write.
One blog down, Courtney, my love.