It’s a little breezy on the porch today, and somewhat cooler here in the Sunshine State. But that doesn’t stop Author Fran Orenstein and I from sharing some sweet tea and a wonderful story about her past. Let’s listen:
Yesterday I felt as though space had folded in on itself and opened a doorway to the past. Having recently moved across country, I knew from past experience that something always disappears in every move. Sometimes they are replaceable, often they are unimportant, and sometimes you really, really need them. This move I lost years of tax returns. Everyone says they are somewhere, and I hope that’s true, but meanwhile every nook, cranny and box is getting checked multiple times. I’m still looking for those tax returns and in reality know they could be in “the box that never arrived”, although why they would be packed with the missing light bulbs, batteries and kitchen utensils is beyond me. However, for those of you who have ever moved, strange things happen in the midst of chaos and stress.
But as I digress, the search revealed a hidden treasure I never remembered existed. I pulled down a plastic bin from atop a shelf in the closet, ignoring the complaints of my back. It was marked “Kid’s Stuff”, meaning drawings, report cards, greeting cards and anything considered memorabilia of my children’s childhoods. Ready to dismiss this as the location of the sought-after tax returns, I nevertheless pawed through, just in case insanity had attacked during packing.
What I did find was a treasure trove of history…my history…my writing history, saved oh those many, many decades ago by my mother. I found the first poem I had ever written at age eight and a plethora of poems and short stories written between eight and twelve. I even found a copy of the short story I had sent to McCalls magazine at age twelve, about a girl who couldn’t buy a dress for her graduation, called The White Dress, which I thought I had torn up in a pre-adolescent fit of angst when the rejection letter came. Note: That was March. They published a similar story with the same title three months later in June. That, dear readers, was my first foray into the evil side of publishing. If you thought I was angry in March, imagine how I felt in June when that magazine issue arrived on the doorstep.
Reading all the poems, stories, and even the tiny book with illustrations, I felt proud of this little girl who was able to write a plot, use mature language, dialogue with correct structure, and develop characters. It became apparent that I was greatly influenced by books I had read and my poems sounded like book reports for Bambi (the first poems I ever wrote) and The Prince and The Pauper. Younger Fran even made the same typo mistakes Elder Fran makes today…it’s instead of its. At least I’m consistent even after six decades.
I believe that early reading and storytelling with a child is vital to developing an understanding of the structure of books, language usage, content and storyline. My mother was a storyteller, and I wish she had written down the stories she told me. I grew up at the library accompanying my mother on her bi- or tri-weekly trips, for reading was her favorite past-time. I must have also been born with a muse living inside my head that made it easy to imagine and create with language, art, and music.
My children also spent their childhoods from infancy at the library, and all are excellent writers; my daughter’s poems published in her teens and a son writing epic poems and lyrics for his music. My grandchildren were raised with books from infancy, and proud Grandma needs to brag that all but the three-year-old have won poetry and writing contests as pre-teens, been published, and my six-year-old grandson, at age five wrote a Haiku that will soon be published in an anthology of children’s poetry. Watch out for the littlest one, though, he’ll be next as soon as he masters reading and writing.
So for parents out there and potential parents who may be reading this blog, please save your children’s creative pursuits, for you never know long after you have passed when they will open a plastic bin and find their past.
Thanks for sharing that Fran. I too spent many hours at the library and reading with my Mom. Some of my fondest memories of are us on the couch reading together. If you’d like to learn more about Fran and her books, visit my Porch Guests Page.