Day Forty: Childhood

Let’s start over.

This weekend I passed the half-way point of my novel. I finished through Chapter 12 and about 60,000 words. It’s really perfect timing. I moved to my childhood in Florida about a month and a half ago to live in an old condo my parents own and live off their generosity and my savings. I wanted to write a novel.

I spent this past weekend in my childhood home with my mother helping her set up a new entertainment system. In return she let me dive into the $5 movie bin at Walmart. I found, as if my mother’s presence drew me to them, some of my childhood favorites. The Neverending Story, Space Jam, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and The Brave Little Toaster. (I already own Sandlot and Cool Runnings… all I am missing is Little Giants and my childhood movie collection is complete!) I watched The Brave Little Toaster last night with a glass of wine… It’s still as good as I remembered it.

My childhood bedroom, unlike my younger brother (the last of us to move out and, therefore, whose room is still a shrine to him), was piled with beds after I moved out and thereafter the temporary sleeping quarters for my older sisters and I whenever we returned for the holidays. We have lovingly dubbed it “Girls Cabin” and there is something wonderfully exciting about sleeping on a bunkbed in your twenties. It’s like you go back in time and those childish things become exciting again.

The only portion of my old room that remains is my bookshelf. It’s like a stationary time machine. All of my old books… I look at them and I remember so vividly reading each of them. I have this tendency to leave my bookmarks pressed between the pages–just old scraps of paper like receipts or plane tickets that will one day tell the next reader when that book was last loved. It’s one of the reasons I can’t return books to the library. I like to track the progress of the pieces of myself I leave in the pages like a horocrux.

My childhood bookshelves hold so much of me… Strange classes I experimented with in college. My dark 6-year-old obsession with real Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which are bleak at best, and perhaps the origin of all my unromantic notions about Love. My Jane Austen stage, where I learned that maybe I wanted to be wrong. Wayside School, Narnia, Harry, David Foster Wallace, Dumas, R.L. Stein, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Mary McCarthy, everything. My entire literate history is on those shelves.

It seems almost perfect that I’d come back here to write my first children’s book–to my own childhood. Part of me felt like such a failure; quitting my job, leaving New Orleans, coming back with nothing to show for it. I hadn’t had the most wonderful childhood, but I did… I did have a lot. I did get to become me. I’m glad I’m back here to remember that. How wonderful being is a kid is. Even if it’s not… Even if it’s horrible… Even if it’s only the launching pad for who you will become. I’ve realized why they call it your formative years. You’re learning how to be someone.

This week marks the end of my time back in Florida. I’m off to New Orleans on Thursday, just like when left Florida for college when I was 18, for an unspecified period of time. After that, my beloved Edinburgh for two months. It’s as if I am reliving my life so far… going back to every place I’ve ever lived, compressing my life so far into six months. I am retracing my steps in order to move on.

I am trying to contain everything I know from my life so far into such a small place. Into a book.

And then? Grad school… maybe? I applied for an MFA. Somewhere new, at the very least.

All I know is that… maybe it seemed as though I was regressing. But sometimes you have to take a few steps back in order to move forward.

Like turning a page in a good book… I wonder what will happen next.

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