My earliest memories are of a dark, cold room snuggled beneath the blankets of our bed. Lying next to my twin sister, our eager little voices begged our mother for just “one more story.” Bedtime stories were the highlight of our day. It was the one time we had her undivided attention, and with a twinkle in her eye, she’d spin magical tales about faraway lands and adventures that the two of us had together in them. I remember asking her one time, “Where did you hear that story, Mama?”
And she answered, “It came from my imagination. Everyone has one, Kim. It’s something inside you that allows you to pretend and make up stories.”
I remember the particular glow that came over her when she would tell us a story—the worry and stresses of hard times were suddenly replaced with a glint of happiness– a flicker of hope. And long after she was gone, nestled beneath the covers, I would dream up stories of my own. Much of my writing as an early child was pretend play and storytelling.
It wasn’t until the third grade that I felt confident enough as a writer to even attempt to write a story. Our third grade teacher, Ms. Maricle, had stations set up around the classroom, and she loved to write with us. Stations filled with sublime storybooks and recordings of people reading them to us were among the choices. A comfortable hammock where we could lie and read to ourselves was the coveted place for most students, but I loved the writing center most of all. Something about the blank pages and the freshly sharpened pencils appealed to me—called to me, just as my laptop does on cold, quiet mornings like today. It was in that room I wrote my first poem. Then I wrote a story. There was something magical that just clicked for me when I started writing. My grades were good enough for the honor roll for the first time ever, and my self-esteem rose with each compliment from my teacher.
“Kim, that’s wonderful.”
“Good word choice!”
“You’re so creative!”
Phrases like that lifted the blanket of self-doubt and self-loathing I’d placed on myself at a young age, and instead of dreading school, I looked forward to going everyday. It was the first time in elementary school that I felt smart– talented even. The imagination ignited by my mother came alive on the page for the first time, my third grade teacher fanned the flame, and the spark spread like wildfire.