Recently, I was sorting through one of my many memory boxes and found a story that I'd written in 8th grade titled "Food Fights in the Cafeteria: a novellita". At first, I felt really nostalgic and proud. Writers, we make a big deal about how we've 'always wanted to write stories' and such, and for most of us, it's probably true. But I felt like I was holding that dream in my hands. I really had wanted to be a writer all those years ago and I wrote all the time and here was the proof. These warm feelings were immediately followed by terror - what if it's a terrible story? what the hell is a novellita anyway? - but we'll focus on the warm fuzzy memories today.
I started reminiscing about my childhood, what books had always meant to me, and I tried to remember the moment that reading and writing became so essential to my identity. Then I stumbled upon this super cute book-inspired Halloween costume tutorial, and immediately sunk into a memory that made me so happy I wanted to share it.
I was that kid that wore things out. I wore my favorite poofy skirt until there were holes in the tulle underneath. The jackets and covers of my books were tattered and falling off because I'd continuously flip through the pages. I even pushed my well-watched Peter Pan video tape in the player backwards because no one was around to help me replay it, and then pulled the film out of the sputtering player inch by inch. And when I was 8 years old, I'd watched Harriet the Spy so many times both of my parents and I could quote it line for line. Harriet the Spy had everything I wanted. She was older (in 6th grade), had two awesomely weird best friends and spent her day snooping on people and recording it all. Nevermind that she had absentee parents and a bully who read her notebooks aloud to everyone, she was the coolest. And I wanted to be just like her.
Somehow I convinced my father to outfit me in Harriet's gear. See Harriet wasn't just a "spy"; she was a collector of stories. She snuck around, listening in on people's lives because she was going to be a great writer someday and needed interesting stories to tell. I decided I needed all of that too. So my dad got me an extra utility belt he had from work, complete with a mini flashlight, magnifying glass, and a pair of binoculars. I swear I was probably fifty pounds heavier. We even got a raincoat and tons of various notebooks that I'd slip beneath my jacket into the belt. Bless my parents. They walked around with their little toolbox for lord knows how long while I pretended to record the secret of life in those pages.
That wasn't enough of course. I also had to act like Harriet too. (I've never been one to half-ass things.) I created my own little "spy route", which mostly included different floors of my apartment building and the next door playground. I also refused to eat anything other than tomato-mayonnaise sandwiches for lunch for months, which would be why I can't stomach it these days. Have I mentioned I was a strange, strange child? Umm, Kari, you're a weird adult too. Touché. Umm, aren't you still a child? Double touché.
So that's one of my earliest memories of my love of writing. Gorging myself on gross sandwiches and running around in an oversized yellow coat like some sort of life-size Paddington fix-it bear. And yet, I can't bring myself to be embarrassed about it. Sure, it's weird. But the nostalgia and pride make it hard to save room for anything else.