Childhood Writing Memories

Childhood Writing Memories

For years, I kept a grade one scribbler filled with my earliest attempts at printing. Solid blue lines marked the upper and lower limits for capital letters, while a dotted red line indicated the correct height for lowercase. Even back then, I loved putting marks onto the page, feeling letters form, letting words and thoughts come into being as the pencil slid across the paper. Sometimes a piece of grit in the lead would challenge my chubby 6-year-old fingers to keep the marks steady and true. That writing booklet was dragged through several adult moves, only to be lost somewhere in the stuff of my present abode.

Another item of my memorabilia is a book of poetry – a collection of poems (not my own) for a school project, probably grade 5 or so. There’s a poem about our country, a poem without rhyming words, a religious poem and a humorous one. “The Lost Lagoon”  by E. Pauline Johnson represented a poem by a Canadian poet. Enamoured of Robert Service, several of his lengthy poems fill my project.

Each poem was painstakingly typed on my toy typewriter in red ink. This toy was not a true typewriter for its keys were merely images on plastic. A center dial contained all the numbers, letters and symbols. Every letter of every word required a turn of the dial before pressing the imprint onto the page. Progress was slow and arduous. Many a time I threw out a poem riddled with typing errors – I knew nothing back then about erasing typos.

Still I persisted. While it would have been prudent to select the shortest poems for the assignment, I insisted on using the poems I loved, regardless of word count.

Accompanying each poem were pictures, some clipped from magazines – my mother read Woman’s Day regularly – or some from greeting cards. Often I made my own drawings. I’d obviously been taught something about drawing perspective, evident in renderings of my school and farm house, or in the angles of my mother’s oak rocking chair. I loved birds then too, as I do now, and it was obvious that farm life informed who I was – my values, my love for nature and a simple life.

Many authors say that they kept a writing journal all their lives. This was not so for me, although I do remember once having a diary with a tiny key. I’d written about a crush on a boy, then decided to throw it in the trash bin and burn it. Burning trash was a common occurrence on the farm. Regrettably, two older brothers fished the partially burned diary from the flames and read my secrets. Humiliated and angry, I wouldn’t write in a journal again for another thirty years.

Even now, my journaling is sporadic. I tell myself I should write, then wander off to dig in the garden or muck out the fish pond. Some days, it seems, not even the guilt of not‑writing can erase my hesitancy to put innermost thoughts on the page.

Why do I feel a need to write about this? Why do I remember it? Why now?

On April 17, the winner of gritLit’s Writing Contest will be announced. My story “Mercy Mercy Me” was longlisted two weeks ago, then shortlisted last week. I am incredibly proud of this accomplishment. Yet as I await the announcement, I feel trepidation. My words, my secret thoughts being judged. My stomach flip flips. Excitement. Apprehension.

Through the writing process, I have identified lingering emotions from childhood and am able to soften, to relax more into the not knowing. To let go of being judged and, instead, remember the act of printing words on the page to reconnect to the purity of creation and the joy of writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Donna