I googled myself and found my own Pittsburgh newspaper column about a writer's life.
|Flight of Fancy
I was so full of self-pity the day I attended my grandson’s class program, ”Meet the First Grade Authors Day,” that I nearly burst into tears when I bumped my knee on a tiny desk.
I had studied the craft of writing for years – by free-lancing for regional newspapers, taking college courses and writing reams. I figured my dues were paid. Now I would be a real writer for big-time magazines, earning big checks that would enable me to stay at home and complete my novel-in-progress.
It was a fine game plan. Unfortunately, after several sales to small magazines, I fumbled the ball. Rejection slips blanketed my keyboard’s shroudlike dust cover – mementos of my dead career.
To top it off, a neighbor kid had recently asked me why I was the only adult in the family who didn’t have a real job.
As I skulked into the classroom where 16 kids were raring to read me their childish prose, I prayed they would be brief.
A little redhead opened with her tale of a magic snowman who hid in her ”very big closet.”
”He melted and got lost under all my clothes.” She giggled so much at her own story that the audience began to laugh too.
I managed a condescending smirk. No one in that classroom could understand the daily struggles of a professional writer.
Next, a boy named Steven read about a bewitched dog that ”morphed” into a mixed-up creature with the tail of one animal and the head of another. He finished with a clever, never-ending story twist.
I applauded. The kid was a born storyteller. Thank goodness he was too young to realize how much we grown-up writers suffer.
One by one the children recited tales of encounters with marauding skunks, flying snowmen and cats who became butterflies and gained a new perspective on life. I laughed till the tears came. How did they ever think up this stuff?
One astonishing child wrote a play about feuding stars and a talking telescope who complained about everyone looking through him. I hooted and clapped so loudly I drew stares.
Finally, my grandson, B.J., read a poem he had written.
”My airplane is a Rainbow Airplane …” he began. He had imagined a magic jet that could whisk him to other worlds just beyond the rainbow.
”Way to go, Beej!” I hollered. I glowed with pride, as if all the children were my offspring. To have bared their longings, worries, and silly thoughts in front of a roomful of strangers took not only guts, but passion. They made me feel ashamed.
My motive for writing had, like Steven’s dog, morphed into a monster; it bore little resemblance to the enchantment that had compelled me as a child to set words upon paper, my pencil flying as if bewitched.
It took a bunch of first-graders to make me realize I had been paying far too much attention to that grandmotherly voice inside my head. ”You can’t fly over rainbows,” it warned. ”You could fall and hurt yourself!”
After the program, as the pint-sized authors accepted kudos and refreshments, I introduced myself to B.J.’s teacher.
”B.J. has a wonderful imagination,” I said, gushing.
She agreed. B.J. tugged my elbow. ”But, Grammy, so do you.”
The teacher gave me a quizzical look. ”Gram, tell her. You’re a writer!”
”Really?” Oh, no. She looked impressed.
Embarrassed, I mumbled, ”Not really. Well, I write some for the newspaper. …”
My grandson shot me the same look I reserve for him when he forgets his manners. He drew himself up to his full 48 inches or so and announced, ”Grammy writes real good stories for the paper!”
I saw myself through his wide, blue eyes. There I stood, a real writer, and the grandmother of a fine first-grade author, to boot.
Later I dug through B.J.’s toy chest. I found the toy I was looking for and sat it atop my desk. As my keyboard hummed to life, and under the watchful glass eyes of a stuffed tiger dressed in leather flight jacket and goggles (the confident pilot of Rainbow Airlines), I began to write with childlike abandon, the way a real writer should.
Dana Datko is a Shanksville free-lance writer for the Tribune-Review.