Friday, June 12, 2009

My Summer Girl

Girl Doll will start junior high in the fall, which means that yesterday was her very last day of elementary school...ever.

 When I arrived at school to pick up the kids, I found Girl flanked by two of her friends, sobbing. One was a fourth grader who was devastated to be left behind, and the other a soon-to-be 7th grader who will be  moving on to a different school. Everyone was difficult to console. In the end, I gave her some time and went to get us lunch. I had a heavy heart over it.

It is rare that she cries like that, and it was difficult to see her so sad. Many of my friends kids cry easily and a lot, but Girl Doll is not generally very emotional or sentimental. It's not that she is some kind of robot - she is very compassionate, but she is also easy-going and not much rattles her.

Maybe that will be her saving grace going into junior high school.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


My mom was 19-years old when she had me, and knew very little about babies. She read that it was important to talk to your baby, except she didn't know what she should say, so she settled on reading me The New York Times every morning.

Growing up, we lived for a short period in San Francisco. One of my first memories was seeing the backdoor off it's hinges; we'd been robbed. Her roommate's TV was stolen, and it wasn't replaced until my mom got a boyfriend that moved in with one. Being an only child without electronic entertainment, I was resourceful and creative. I played for hours by myself with stuffed animals, but mostly I read. Frequently, I would look over recipes in my mom's Good Housekeeping Cookbook while she cooked dinner, which was a kind of excellent torture. 

I worked my way through books about horses, starting with the gorgeously illustrated Billy and Blaze stories by C.W. Anderson, and then Misty of Chincoteague, which I didn't care for as much - and the entire Walter Farley series of books, beginning with the his first story written in the 1940's, The Black Stallion. I loved comics: Archie, Richie Rich and Mad Magazine. I read pre-teen fiction: anything written by Judy Blume, and VC Andrew's Flowers in the Attic series. As I got older, I read nearly everything written by Stephen King, although my favorite was a book of short stories called Different Seasons. Three of the four short stories became screenplays, and two of those are among my all-time favorite movies: Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption.  

At 11-years old, I would play handball against the side of the stairwell at our apartment for hours. It was meditative; I'd settle into a rhythm with hitting the ball ka-chung ka-chung ka-chung and I would think of elaborate stories about horses. I wrote my first short story over several days on a yellow, legal-sized pad of paper about a pony and rider that got caught in a high tide along the bluffs of the beach.

When I was 14-years old, we were assigned to write a descriptive essay about a high school locker for an English class. Our teacher asked us to describe the contents of the locker and what the locker itself it looked like, until each word written was in the 'perfect place' and the whole paper just felt right. He chose an assignment to read out loud to the class and without knowing in advance, he chose my paper. I felt myself turning crimson from embarrassment.

After he finished one of the popular boys remarked, "Someone in this class wrote that?!" Our teacher indicated it was me, and I was both shy and thrilled at the same time. Ever since that brief moment of validation that my writing reached someone and meant something, I have wanted to become a writer