This is only a suggestion that might help you find some things to write about. Sit down with paper and pen and make a list of beginnings, or firsts. One sentence for each and no more. This is only a list that is meant to encourage you to write more. Here are some suggestions:
first day at school (any age)
first look at a night sky filled with stars
first impulse to create
first time you realized that you might not know what you thought you knew
first favorite color
first time voting
first time in a boat
first encounter ?
This list might take several pages, or less than one. But it will suggest others. That’s up to you. Our story is the best medicine we own that can be shared with the world around us. But, the most important person who needs to hear it is you. Writing about any one of the firsts we have encountered in life, is like reaching out to clasp hands with a stranger.
Yes, a stranger. One who only lives in memory and memory is a very fleeting thing. We might remember an image of a thing, and experience, but until we examine it more closely, put it into words of thought and feelings, it simply remains a blurred photo with little or no meaning.
Take, for instance, that first kiss. Mine was rather exceptional because of the surroundings and what occurred after it. I was thirteen, and he was the same age but attended a public school, while I was in my final year of Catholic grade school. He had a friend with him, who seldom spoke, most often just standing by observing and listening. It was early evening and we were standing outside the back entrance to my home. The screen door was open, but the light wasn’t lit. So whatever was within couldn’t be seen in that darkness. We had been walking around the backyard, talking, and he’d taken my hand and was holding it. He moved in a bit closer, his eyes on mine, and mine on his. He bent and softly pressed his lips to mine. It was probably the most chaste kiss I would ever experience, but I was both scared and excited. As he drew back and away, my father’s voice came from within that darkened entrance way. “It’s time to come in now.”
We scattered, the two boys taking off in one direction, and me scrambling to get inside the house. There was no one in the entrance way. My Dad had calmly dropped his statement and turned away to move quietly into our living space. And he never mentioned what had happened. But, the memory still exists clear and well defined because of those startling circumstances. I wrote it down years later. It makes me laugh in a sort of shaken and embarrassed manner. That most often turns into outright laughter. Because that wasn’t the end of that ‘first’ experience.
You see, the boy and his friend came back the next evening. He seemed a bit fidgety, and spoke of several things. Then went quiet, looked over at his silent friend, and asked me if I’d teach his friend how to do the thing we’d done the evening before. I went stock still and a thousand things: words, questions, mine and other’s, all jammed into one small space, all at the same time. I don’t know if the shock walked across my face. I was just too stunned by his request. He’d gone on speaking, something about how his friend had never kissed a girl and really wanted to learn how to do it. And all I could do was stand there and stare at him. I had thought that he genuinely liked me.
He wasn’t the first boy who wanted me to be his girlfriend. The year before, the best looking boy in the graduating eighth grade class had singled me (a seventh-grader) out and we’d spent most of the past summer, when I wasn’t babysitting or doing chores, swinging on our front porch swing, swimming at the public pool, or just walking around the neighborhood together, holding hands, or with his arm slung around my shoulder. He’d never kissed me. Had gone off to the seminary the following autumn to study about becoming a priest. And I had wondered if that was why there had never been a first kiss.
But now had to wonder if I’d just been some sort of experiment. This current boy had given me a ring to wear on a chain around my neck. And all I could do was stare at him, my mind in total confusion about what any or all of this was really all about. I couldn’t speak, just stood staring at him and then shook my head “No”, turning and walking away. He asked me for the ring a few days later. Apparently his mostly silent friend meant far more to him. And kissing might now be whatever I thought it was.
Writing it all out brought back a lot more memories. Things that surprised me when I did so many years later. The following year, I attended the same junior high school as he did. For all intents and purposes, he acted as if he didn’t know me, never said “Hi”, in passing, or acknowledged me in any way. That was okay, as I was dealing with the major change and disorientation that came from going through seven years of Catholic grade school, to public school.
I did take part in the yearly Talent Show that year, singing a solo of a popular song at the time. The song was well received and I got a lot of applause from the audience. Wasn’t aware that he was there in that audience with a whole group of friends, both male and female. Had, however, become aware that he was definitely one of the most popular males on that campus, sought after by most of the most popular girls. A few days after the Show, one of those girls approached me to tell me how surprised she was when she heard me sing. When she said I had a great voice, I thanked her and went to turn away, but she continued, “You surprised all of us and should be aware that you obviously caught the attention of several of the guys we were sitting with. Especially CM. He just sat still and didn’t move at all, didn’t speak, just stared at you, up on stage singing. He was sort off in a whole different world. You might want to know that he might be interested in you.” I wasn’t.
A few months later, I was talking to another girl and she was curious about my Catholic school background, saying how tough she thought it must be with all the nuns making sure you didn’t mess around with boys, all the rules, and that sort of thing. I just laughed and told her that hadn’t stopped any of us from seeking and actually having boyfriends. She seemed genuinely surprised that we might actually rebel at such restrictions and asked me about my own experiences. I told her about the possible priest and then dropped the name of the other boy. Her eyes got big and she said, “You went steady with him?” I nodded as I got my books together for my next class. She was obviously not only shocked, but thoroughly curious. I rose to my feet when the bell rang, looked at her and said, “Yes, for about a month and the only thing I’d tell any girl who might be interested in him, is not to let him kiss her.” Then turned and walked away, laughing inside.
So that’s my story about my first kiss and it proves that I am only human. There’s more, of course, but that might be better for another time and a different list. As I said at the beginning, the list is simply a starting point. A place of ideas, as well as beginnings. But, if you want to know why it is so important to write these things down I will give you a clue. When you write them down, you are making notes. And when you do that, you are making your experience “noteworthy”. You are also enhancing your own memory, and making your story far more real, and interesting, to that stranger you may have become, and the ones you have still to meet.
Until next time,