I recently rediscovered the first words I ever wrote. When I was 4 and 5 years old, I lived with my family in North Bennington, Vermont where I attended The Prospect School. It was a big white clapboard building built on a hillside so that it had one story on the frontside and two stories on the backside. Out back was a large play area, not just playground equipment but a lawn and trees and bushes. In high school, when I read “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles, I imagined the protagonist taking refuge in the open space behind The Prospect School.
Apparently, one of the activities for preschoolers at the school was to keep a writing diary. The teacher would ask each student for a sentence of the day which the student would speak out loud. “I like Shane” was one of my most common sentences of the day, substituting Shane for the name of whoever I happened to be playing with that day. The teacher would write down the sentence in neat script and the student would copy it below. My very earliest sentence, written Monday, January 8, 1978, was, “I got a new cat.”
I now have three of those journals. As I read through them, some of the sentences I wrote haunt me, like “I am going to Arizona at Friday.” That summer, my dad took me and my sister to visit my uncle in Arizona at the beginning of my parents’ process of separating. In the third journal, from that fall, after we returned from Arizona, appears the line, “My daddy moved to San Francisco.” I wonder whether my teacher, writing down my spoken sentence, understood better than I did the momentous changes happening in my life.
About 15 years ago, I got a letter from The Prospect School letting me know, “We have some of your artwork.” The school was closing and the staff were reuniting artwork with artists 30 years later. I sent postage and received a package. The three little journals of daily sentences were inside, along with a bunch of drawings.
I suppose what brought me to this page is a desire to continue the writing that began so long ago, writing to record my likes and dislikes, writing to chronicle my unique story, writing to maintain some sanity in the midst of forces I cannot control.
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