One of my earliest memories – maybe the earliest, once you sift out the things that I think are memories but are really second-hand knockoffs of pictures and movies of my elfin childself that I have seen and taken ownership of – is of me writing.
My brothers and I were frequently taken on Sunday drives when we were little. I think that we were either on househunts (my Mom was always looking to move), or spending some inexpensive family time together in the car. I hated it because I was afflicted by what I now know is carsickness.
At some point, I discovered that if I sat not on the seat but in the little carved out footspace in front of the seat, I didn’t feel as nauseated as the scenery taunted me on it’s way by the window.
On one of these outings when I was maybe 5 or so (I could fit comfortably in that footwell, so I was pretty small) for a fleeting few moments, maybe an hour, I saw in myself a poet.
My grandmother always had these little white 3×5 notepads around, and any time we left her house we left with a few. Sitting there in my little cubby, I asked my mom for some paper, and she gave me one of those pads. Nausea be damned – my little heart celebrated. And that celebration came out in the form of a poem. And then another. And another.
Prodigy that I was (not) I huddled there in the footwell, seat as my desk, scribbling off something about a pretty bird, freed it from the glue holding the pad together, and scrambled to my feet to show my mother.
(Thankfully, I grew up in the 70’s because if I were born a generation later, in the age of seatbelts and safety seats, my writing bug would have been squashed in the larva stage.)
She LOVED it! I mean, I know it was the creation of a complete non-prodigious five-year-old with no prior poeming experience. But she loved it. At least she made me feel like she did. And I LOVED that.
I don’t remember any of the other subjects that bumped into the anlage of my writing aspirations, except for one about the disgustingness of my dad’s cigarette smoke wafting into the back seat seeking out the embers of my now-quashed carsickness.
She smiled. She even laughed – appropriately – at my cigarette protest poem. She loved them all. Not in the way I love the syntax of Zora Neale Hurston, or the versatility of Barbara Kingsolver, or the things I don’t even understand in Pablo Neruda and Rumi. She loved them because they were mine. They were of me. They were created by her creation. I don’t think since then I have felt it as purely, whatever it was that she was giving me. Love? Pride? Approval? Thinking back, I get a glimpse of that, a flicker from the ashes of memory.
That’s why I write.
And sometimes why I don’t write.
Sometimes I write to figure things out.
I write to explain things.
I write because I ask my students to write.
I write to hear what wasn’t heard.
I write because sometimes I think I have something to say. About teaching. And living.
I write because it makes me feel better – though sometimes worse first, then better.
I write because I have questions. Sooo many questions.
I write to find my voice. And to hear it in my head.
And I write because there are things I want to say out loud.
I write because in telling the story I have been holding on to, I am going to break the hold it has on me, give it boundaries and limits that I define.
I write because I am afraid not to. I will drown in the ink that is not on my pages. I will forget and be forgotten.
I write so I can lay the beautiful madness out in front of me and stand back and get some perspective.
I write because I am grateful, and I like to read about that as I write it down. It’s like an extra helping of gratitude.
I have things that want to be said.
I write because writing is how I find my way
It is the creation of light
It is communion
It is love over fear (especially when I choose truth)
I write because I like to believe I am a writer.
I write to honor my six-year-old self.
I write because I love words – what they can do – how they can make people feel . That they can be fleeting or permanent. That they can change lives and wield power. (Magic.)
I write to make up for ripping pages out of journals. And to recover truths I didn’t choose.