I’m embarking on a new personal journey on this Wednesday, October 03, 2012. After years (and by that I mean YEARS!) of saying that I wanted to write on a regular basis, I’ve finally gone and done it. I’ve committed to writing on a regular basis.
A friend (I hesitate to call her an “old friend” because she’s only a few months older than me!) and I have challenged each other to reserve time each week for creativity. I’m going to write. If you’ve ever seen me attempt to create something in the arts and crafts realm, you will understand why I choose to write. Even if I wanted to do something crafty, my husband does not allow me to touch the hot glue gun. In fact, I think he’s hidden it from me. I may or may not have glued my fingers together, so he felt it was in everyone’s best interest to make it disappear. Yes, it is possible to do that with hot glue, and yes, it hurts. Badly.
But I digress. You see, from my earliest memories, I wanted to do two things. Those two things are recorded for posterity in a little keepsake book that my Mom collected for me. If you know my mom and me, the fact that there are any keepsakes around from my childhood is amazing. We just aren’t “keepers.” We tend not to attach sentimental value to “stuff,” so we just don’t think about keeping the treasures that most people hoard.
But, Mom kept this little book for 13 years and dutifully updated it or helped me update it year after year.
It contains grade cards from every year as well as my school pictures and some pictures of my teachers. On the front page of each grade year, Mom recorded important information like School, Teacher, Height, Weight, etc. On the second page, there was space for New Friends, Activities, Achievements, and Awards. But the part that entertains and yes, even stuns, me now, is the section at the bottom of the second page.
This “When I Grow Up I Want To Be” section continues through sixth grade. I guess the makers of the book figured if you didn’t know what you wanted to be by seventh grade, you were a loser. They probably didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to check off a “Loser” box.
First, we must make note of the blatant sexism on display. You’ll have to forgive the publishers. The copyright year is 1965; I launched my academic career in 1967. Gloria Steinem hadn’t founded Ms. Magazine and the words “women’s liberation” hadn’t entered the public consciousness. It just didn’t occur to them to offer little girls the options of Fireman, Astronaut, or even Cowboy. I’m grateful that women like Sally Ride and Condoleezza Rice didn’t stick to the rules.
Second, let’s examine my signature. Not bad for a Kindergartener, if I do say so myself. It’s actually hilarious to see how my handwriting evolves over 13 years. You can tell in my Junior High days that I’m really ticked with my parents for not naming me something with an “i” in it so I can dot it with a heart or smiley face. You see, kids, that’s what we did before emoticons. We dressed up our handwriting. We were ever so cool.
But finally, and most importantly, do you notice the box I checked? Mother. At the age of 5, I wanted to be a Mother. That was probably not unusual, but if you stick with me on this writing journey, you’ll see that checking the Mother box was the easiest step in becoming one.
But let’s look a little further into the book. Each year, as I progressed through elementary school, I marked a different box. First grade, I marked School Teacher. In Second, I pulled a “write in” and scrawled “Scientist.” Apparently, Women’s Lib had arrived at Bingham Elementary School, and I decided it was time to choose something outside of the 1965 pre-determined roles. Good for me, Eight Year Old Self! However, if you knew how completely laughable me as a scientist would be, you’d roll on the floor! I’m not sure what prompted that declaration, but I’m still happy about it.
In Third grade, I didn’t mark a box. I think I must have been taking this career choice thing a little more seriously now and didn’t want to make a rash decision. But in Fourth grade, let’s see what I marked:
Yes, I pulled a write-in again. It looks like I wrote “Writes,” but I think in my heart of hearts I was declaring to the world (and most importantly, myself) that I wanted to be a “Writer.”
I’m guessing it began to occur to me about that time that women were good and even great writers. I had, by then, read all the “Little House” books and had visited the home in Mansfield, Missouri where Laura Ingalls Wilder had written the books. I can remember being somewhat surprised that books could be written anywhere: You didn’t have to live in big, unattainable places like New York City or Paris or London to be a writer. This was news to me.
So, for about 45 of my 50 years, I wanted to be a mother. And for about 40 of those years, I wanted to be a writer. Eleven years ago, I became a mom. Can I call myself a writer now? I don’t know. I probably won’t make it official until I see my name on the cover of a book, but with this blog, I’ve started down that road.
What do you think this girl would say to me now? (I mean after she said, “When the photographer says, ‘Lean a little more to the right’, don’t do it,” what would she say?)