I don’t know the dates. Like a lot of memories from childhood my earliest recollections of writing are isolated islands of events. But pieces within the memories help me narrow the gaps, reference points that act like time stamps on the photos in my mind.
I remember being asked to write a short story in the fall at the start of fourth grade. I’m guessing at year, honestly. But we were taught cursive handwriting in third grade, so I doubt it was that year, and the room in my memories looked nothing like my fifth grade classroom, so I’ve tentatively labeled it “fourth grade”.
Because Halloween was approaching, I wrote a story about a man who planted pumpkins. When the man harvested the pumpkins and cut one open, he discovered bones inside it. The mystery of the bones, it seemed, was due to the pumpkin patch being planted over an old cemetery. Spooky, eh?
I have another memory. The pieces in this one point to fourth or fifth grade. My mother took me shopping with one of the girls from my class and her mother. I distinctly remember sitting in the back of my mom’s brown Ford conversion van (the kind with the poker table and couch in the back, and mini blinds in the windows) when the little girl asked me what I was going to be when I grew up.
“A writer,” I proudly declared. I had a handful of notebook paper with me and held it up as if to show her my certainty in that dream.
I realize that every child makes a similar pronouncement. A fireman. A policeman. A lawyer. A doctor. A superhero. And I realize that I’m far from being a full-time writer paying the bills completely through the force of my fingertips. But how often can an adult look back and see a moment like that, so defining and seemingly prophetic, and find echoes of their present within it?
Remember the random things and discover the patterns. I firmly believe that satisfaction and fulfillment is found in connecting the dots. Some call it ‘purpose’, and others say it’s our ‘calling’. All I know is that a life of random dots and memories can be a lot less rewarding than a life of memories and events that connect and touch and lead to something. It doesn’t change who you are right now, but it certainly adds a powerful why. And that’s what we’re all really seeking, isn’t it?