Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Memory Month: Years in the Life of a Family

For as long as I can remember, I have had a drive to write and have dreamed of a career in creative writing. (So far that hasn't worked out so well for me.) As a child, I was quite ambitious and started on my first novel during elementary school. (I believe I was in 2nd grade.) The name of the novel was Years in the Life of a Family, and it was basically just about that: a family. The mother's name was Leslie, and she was married and had about 15 kids, which is truly frightening to me now.

I wrote the novel with the help of my friend Amy. Since our moms both worked, we stayed in daycare after school hours and worked diligently on our novel. We added tons of illustrations, which was more fun than the actual writing. We had a blast naming all the chapters as well. As I recall, we eventually stopped writing and just kept on naming chapters. Eventually, the story of this family revealed itself through all the chapter titles. Leslie eventually gave birth to triplets (after having 15 kids - including a set of twins - before), some of the boys made a battery out of cow poo (don't ask me why), "Michael" was always spelled "Micheal," and somehow none of the kids managed to age at all. Mark the baby stayed a baby no matter how many seasons passed. Yeah, apparently at that age we still hadn't figured out the concept of time.

As a child, I longed for the presence of babies in my life. I wanted a younger sibling desperately (I hated being the youngest). I was also dying to be a mother, which sounds so incredibly strange considering I was still pretty much a baby myself. All of this obviously played into the writing of the novel.

What is even more obvious to me now is that I was hoping to attain an imaginary perfect family with myself as the mother. If I want to get all Freudian about it, I'd say that this story offered me the chance to escape from my less-than-perfect childhood by offering my fictional children my undivided attention, unconditional love, and selfless devotion. Eventually I gave up the dream of that perfect family, and that was where Break Up and Get Back Together (my second novel, written in 5th grade) came in. Already I was gearing up for romantic love, hoping to find what had been missing in my family life. (And we all know how that works out. Paging Dr. Freud, indeed!)

If I could talk to my 5th grade self, I'd tell her not to give up the dream completely because no one, not even that perfect family I created, has a perfect childhood, a flawless personality, or an always amazing life.

Despite knowing these things as an adult, I'm wondering if this is the reason I don't write fiction anymore. I just don't have that dream of perfection anymore. I can't even think it, because I know it doesn't exist.

I seem to have lost my sense of childlike wonder. But at least I once had it.


ssinca said...

15 kids??? holyshit! you'd better get cracking. ;)

Discombobulated said...

I think this post is great.

I used to "write" a series as well, when I was younger, it also had a lot to do with a big family, and I think your realization of recreating the desired family, rings true for why I did it, as well.

Lesli said...

I hope you get some of your childlike wonder back. I hope we all do. Believe in love and magic! I am thinking about a Lifetime TV movie I watched last night. Anyhow, I loved your post--loved that you and your friend created a book with illustrations and then finally with more chapter names than anything else. And 15 kids--holy crap! :)