The preceding summer was filled with all of the usual things. Attending camp at the local YMCA. Half-assing my way through my violin lessons. Devouring entire Mary Higgins Clark mysteries in between chapters of Oliver Twist. (Dickens and I had a complicated relationship right from the start.) It was also that summer when I sat down at my typewriter and started to tap out what I only assumed would be The Great American Novel.
I loved that Brother with all of my little heart, and in the preceding years it had borne witness to small papers about various elementary school things and some fucking atrocious poetry. But 12-year-old Samantha decided it was time to make the move to prose. The story was simple enough. It was about secrets and lies in a small Connecticut town. The Mary Higgins Clark mysteries had done their work. They had crawled into my brain and infected everything. The tale followed four middle-aged women and their 12-year-old daughters. The women had been living on that same street their entire lives and each of their daughters deeply resembled her respective mother. The older women had been close in their youth, but no longer spoke to each other, forcing their own children to be secret best friends. An old resident moves back into town, another woman with a 12-year-old girl. The two once again greatly resembled each other except for the fact that one side of this mother’s face had been badly burned. With her re-entrance into the neighborhood, the original four women become even more anxious and their daughters try to discover the root of all of the whispering. It was to be called The Treehouse.
There are many questions that weren’t addressed in those opening pages. Why had no one moved away? Had a warlock cast a spell binding them forever to that idyllic Connecticut street? How had everyone gotten pregnant at the same time? Coincidence? A pact? Why did the victim of the incident that led to the breaking of the original friend group move back to the town? Those questions were left unanswered as August came to a close, but I assumed there would be time enough to answer them all. I was 12. What else would I be doing?
However, once summer ended there was the business of seventh grade to attend to. New students. New teachers. Field hockey games and dance classes and the reading of my first Shakespeare play. Three years ago I tried to investigate why I stowed it away. I blamed puberty then, but I think that I was giving myself both too little and too much credit. Although I started to become enchanted by boys and boy-related things around that age, I was not partaking in any of that turmoil and tumult. I was starting my third year at girls’ school and was just beginning my long history of crushing on people from afar.
When you grow up and still crush from afar, sometimes you drink too much wine and gaze dreamily into the eyes of the person that you like and everyone gives you shit about it because you are an adult now, get it together.
It’s easy to blame missteps and mistakes on youthful stupidity and adolescent distractions because such things can’t be helped. What I could help was my own cowardice. Writing took work, and I struggled with it, with finding my voice and discovering the types of stories that I wanted to tell. I liked classes and activities in which praise came easily. I loved the simple A and the gold star. Two years passed before I gave the story more than a passing glance. I decided then that it wasn’t worth my time.
It took many, many years, and a violent unmooring, for me to understand that all of those things that I let myself believe I loved because of the simple As and the gold stars were the things that should be stashed away in a drawer. I once again tried my hand at writing here and there, but I held most of the stories close.
After I moved back to my childhood home for my second, post-collegiate stay, a friend suggested that I get myself a notebook, the opening page of which is filled with timidity.
Katie says that I should start at the beginning. But at the beginning of what?