Stories about travel, life, writing and parenting my college-age children (who think they don't need any more parenting). Oh! And the occasional amazing photograph (I like to play pro photographer on vacations.)
I recently had the privilege of reading a short story written by the daughter of a friend of mine. She is a high school student and her parents were once told never to expect her to be able to write creatively.
Why would anybody, particularly a person in the education field, ever say something so discouraging?
As I read the story, her distinctive voice resounded strong and clear. The story itself was dark, even slightly disturbing, but interesting nonetheless. Her teacher did not care for it and asked her to change it. The girl declined, stating essentially this was her story and she was sticking to it, and so the teacher refused to include it in a "published" book the students were creating for parents.
This situation reminded me of something I witnessed when I was shopping for a preschool for my daughter many years ago. As I toured one facility, the students were busy with an art project, gluing cotton balls within a snowman outline that was printed on the page. I walked past one particular child who was being corrected by the teacher because he had decided to glue the cotton balls to the top of the page instead. I'm not a teacher, and there may have been some developmental purpose behind making each student conform to gluing the cotton balls inside the lines. But I was annoyed. If he wanted to glue the cotton balls somewhere else on the page, go for it! Let him revel in his unique take on the project. This was that child's personal art.
Whether you're gluing cotton balls on a page, or crafting words, it is art. Your personal art.
For myself, practicing the art of writing is as necessary as breathing. The act of crafting words gives me such an incredible natural high. It is a feeling I crave.
For those of you who love to write, you know what I mean. And for those of you who don't, I'll bet you can imagine something else in your own lives that gives you that satisfying blend of accomplishment, of joy, of simultaneous blessing and being blessed.
After finishing the girl's story, I pondered the question: How do you know when you're a writer?
I am a freelance writer and I get paid to write. And I love, LOVE getting paid for my writing. But I would still write, whether it resulted in a paycheck or not.
I say to anybody who feels the urge to write creatively, go for it! It doesn't matter what anybody tells you. It doesn't matter if you get paid to do it. It is your personal art. If you love it. Crave it. Dream about it. If you can't be away from it for too long because you believe you'll go crazy...
“Mom, can we give PRETTY GIRL a ride to the movies tomorrow?”
“Sure,” I responded absently, typing away on my computer.
I knew my son Josh had arranged for a group of friends to go see Toy Story 3 the next day and I often cart his friends around for their various social engagements, so I didn’t give his request another thought.
Until I was blow-drying my hair the next morning, that is.
You know how it goes. You’re just standing there, drying your hair while you mentally go through your checklist for the day. Yeah, well all of a sudden connections began rapidly firing in my preoccupied perimenopausal brain. Snatches of previous conversations I’d had with my son whizzed through my head like Pinewood Derby cars on race day.
“Who are you texting right now, buddy?” “XXX, XXX and PRETTY GIRL.”
“Who’s coming over today?” “XXX, XXX and PRETTY GIRL.”
“Anyone special in your life right now, buddy?” “Yeah, PRETTY GIRL.”
Although we don’t permit dating until the age of 16, Joshua has been “going out” with PRETTY GIRL for the past several weeks. Not that they'd actually gone anywhere. Their relationship had thus far consisted of texting and an official change in their Facebook relationship statuses.
But now we were talking about a movie. And although they would be with a larger group of friends, we were picking PRETTY GIRL up to give her a ride. Which meant PRETTY GIRL and Joshua would be walking into the theater together. Which meant…
“Hey buddy,” I shouted over the whir of my blow dryer.
“Yeah, mom?” Josh appeared next to me in an instant, freshly showered and smelling kind of after-shavey.
“Er…?” It’s best to just say it. Just put it out there. “Josh, were you planning on paying for PRETTY GIRL’s ticket?”
He grinned broadly. “Yeah. I was gonna use my own money, though!” He added hurriedly, believing he was heading my concerns off at the pass.
A rush of strange feelings washed over me. Not all good.
“I have $32 in my wallet to cover popcorn and stuff, too,” he added. While Josh didn’t have a regular job, he’d been mowing a neighbor’s lawn and had a small stockpile of funds saved up.
“So…is this…uh, this is technically a date then?”
When our kids were young, my hubby and I had thought setting 16 as the official dating age seemed a reasonable, far-off-in-the-future number as we played with our giggling, tumbling toddlers.
Now, all I could say was….
WHAT THE HECK WERE WE THINKING?! Sixteen isn’t old enough! He’s only a baby! He can’t go on a date yet!
Breathe, Holly, breathe.
I left the bathroom and sat down hard on the edge of my bed, dropping my head between my knees and willing my heart rate to slow.
I looked up at my baby boy who had trailed after me, concern in his beautiful brown eyes. “You okay, mom?”
NO!!! “Yeah, I’m fine, buddy.” Deep breath in. Let it out. “You know, technically, you’re not allowed to date until you’re 16.”
He arched his brow at me.
“But,” I continued. “Since you’ll be 16 in two days, I suppose we’ll let this one go.”
His face cleared. “Thanks, mom!” He gave me a hug and left the room.
As we drove to PRETTY GIRL'S house, and just to show how mature I could pretend to be, I handed him a tissue to shove into his pocket. “I heard Toy Story 3 has an emotional ending,” I explained. “You’ll look good if you can hand her a tissue if she's crying or something.”
Instead of rolling his eyes at me like usual, he shoved the tissue into his pocket. I pulled up to the theatre entrance and watched as he, PRETTY GIRL and his friends all walked in. No hand holding. No looping the arm around the shoulders. No smooching. Okay, that’s cool. I can handle this.