Growing up in a small town on a street where everyone was related or at least knew everyone else certainly had its perks as well as one or two drawbacks. I mean, you knew you had to behave or your misdeeds would make it home to Mama before you could. Mostly, my childhood was a safe and sheltered environment in which I thrived. That is probably due in part to the fact that I was the oldest kid on our street. The closest in age to me was my cousin, who was two years younger.
Being the oldest granted me some type of “cool” status, as it was assumed by my younger playmates that somehow I was more worldly-wise and knowledgeable than they were. It should come as no surprise, then, that I was often the ring-leader in whatever we got in to. Thankfully, my mind was not bent on evil or mischievousness, but instead tended towards the fantastical and the imaginary. I could create whole worlds out of the grass houses that my friends and I would make after my Daddy would mow the lawn and the grass dried. A mound of delivered dirt became a mountain we had to scale or an airy castle where we lived. Our trampoline was a place for adventures on the high seas as well as a source for one or two incidents that led us to the ER.
Of all the adventures of my youthful summers, though, one of my fondest memories is when we created a neighborhood newspaper. Even in my younger days, I found ways to make money, and by peddling our newspapers, I was sure we’d hit upon a source for making millions.
Time has blurred my memory as to the paper’s name or even its content. I feel certain that we had some jokes; some we made up, others we found on bubble gum or Laffy Taffy wrappers. There may have been a recipe or two, but the rest was devoted to neighborhood gossip, of which we seemed to be curiously devoid. Working people, both then and now, just don’t have much time to spread malicious rumors or start trouble.
Still, as serious writers, we had a job to do, so when we completed our first edition, one of our parents ran it off on a copy machine. We stapled the paper together and walked around the street trying to sell our product. Sales weren’t too hot, and as quickly as it was brought to life, our paper folded under the vicious law of supply & demand. We got a big kick out of the whole experience, but looking back, it may very well have been the spark that has driven me to want to become a writer.
These days, I have started having some successes in the field of writing. Only now, it often feels more like work instead of the fun I had when I was twelve. Perhaps I am approaching it the wrong way. Maybe to be successful, or at least not worry if I am or not, I need the carefree attitude that one only seems to possess in youth. Either way, when the acceptance letters come, I feel the same joy I did when I was twelve selling those papers. When the rejection letters arrive, I feel a different type of dejection. Young me would have thrown back my shoulders and proceeded to the next house; thirty-none-of-your-business year old me allows my shoulders to droop and sag under the weight of defeat. Yet, I’ve never been one to wallow in misery for too long; eventually, I dust myself off and set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and begin anew. That’s what writers do.
Some days I wish I could go back to the summers of so long ago when it was safe to ride my bicycle from one end of our street to the other while visions of fantasy worlds and ideas of making it big one day raced through my mind. Other times, I am just glad that I had that idyllic childhood, which has brought in to being the person I have become today.