I’ve always felt like I was a writer. I feel like it’s part of my soul. A few days ago, I tried to think of where my love of the written word began, and I discovered that it came because of the influence of my mother and grandmother (who I call Nana), though neither of them were writers. My mom is a voracious reader. She is always reading. Books were part of our home, and so it was easy for them to also become part of my identity.
I wonder how many people remember the exact moment they learned to read. I do. Learning to read, of course, is a slow progression. But there is a moment when the words on the page stop being a line of letters to sound out and start being words. Words that instantly have meaning. I don’t know how old I was, but I remember sitting in my Nana’s car while she filled it up with gas. The car was parked right in front of the convenience store, which had large stickers on the window advertising the products sold within: Snacks, Cigarettes, Milk, Bread. As Nana got back into the car, she mentioned that we needed to stop by the store on the way home because she needed milk. At that moment, staring at that gas store window, the word “Milk” suddenly became real to me. I felt giddy with excitement as I told Nana that there was milk here. She looked at me in amazement and asked “Did you read that?” From that moment on, I was a reader.
Writing also seemed to come from Nana’s influence. I sat down one day at Nana’s kitchen table with a piece of paper and wrote out a story, using fast food restaurants as the subjects. It was something like, “The Burger King married the Dairy Queen and they took a trip to old McDonald’s farm.” Etc. I showed it to Nana after I finished, and I still remember her effusive praise. It was a taste of what it was like to write something that other people admired, and I was hooked.
One last memory also took place at Nana’s house, where my brother and I found an old typewriter in the basement. (Along with my mom’s old accordion. I still smirk at the visual of my shy, bookworm-ish mother playing the accordion). My brother Wayne and I took turns playing with the typewriter. We had a game. You had to type as fast as you could whatever came into your mind. It was great fun, and spawned many silly phrases like “purple monkey dishwasher”. It also spawned my love of writing just for the pure joy of flowing words.
I love words. Reading them, writing them, that moment when I figure out the perfect way to express a thought. It’s magical to me. It gives me joy. It’s what I was meant to do.