My guess is though no one will fess up, that my parents were actually reading when I was conceived. From the beginning, it was all about books. My father wrote. For a time, my mother wrote, and twice daily we went to the Children’s Library in Palo Alto, coming home with loads of books we then read, settled on my parents bed.
I write because biting was getting me in trouble.
A two, I bit my sister with such regularity I can remember admiring my teeth marks on Cinda’s arms. Judging by the strange and overblown reaction of the adults, I knew that biting was bad. My dad encouraged me to find other means of self-expression, though I could tell he too understood at times the need for a hard bite.
From dad, I learned that writing meant you could have holes in your clothing, make a hideout in the attic and swear in Italian. Writing was protest, and meaning and freedom and that was clearly etched on my father’s face whenever he peeked down from his writer’s hideout in the crawlspace above the laundry room.
The first time I remember writing, I was in second grade and even though my teacher (the evil Mrs. Fignewton) hated the nascent snarkiness that was I, I did my part for women’s lib. My little notes of “I hate Mrs. Newton,” explicitly reasoned with supporting facts, were my equivalent of Luther’s ninety-five theses and earned me the distinction of being the only girl at my school bad enough to get spanked. I was as bad as a boy, or so I often heard. In reality, like many boys, I lacked diplomacy and when I spoke my mind, it came out all wrong and made trouble all around me.
I can distinctly remember the need to write from before I could write, for how else to explain the world? Weird stuff happened and nobody wanted to talk about it. I’d ask my dad why people were poor, sad, lonely or angry and his answer was always that it was because of “The Vast and Inscrutable Imponderabilities of Life” and for years, from the time I was little, I would recite those words though I didn’t understand them. I just knew dad’s powerful incantation meant that I was safe.
At nineteen, I teased out their meaning and found out they meant something “huge, hard to understand and hard to consider”. Not the secret of the universe I had expected. When I confronted dad about what I thought was a nineteen-year-old joke, he was surprised and a little put off. According to him, he’d told me true with no attempt to deceive.
As a young college student, I became so conflicted about writing from the harsh criticisms of teachers and never wanted to write anymore. Like the humble sea urchin who moves into a crevice for greater protection and then finds she is stuck because she has grown too large, leaving the crack o’ safety was not easy.
I write because even though I’ve done many other things very successfully, in writing I’m allowed the one worldview I want to hold. I don’t have to discuss my accomplishments. I don’t have to seek your approval of who I am though I revel if you like my words. When I write, I feel myself completely for a few precious moments. I write for myself, from my truth and with no regard for the long-term financial impact of what I am doing. I write because someday, my grave will be close at hand and in writing now, beyond fear, repression and loneliness, I finally face with mature knowledge of a survivor, the vast and inscrutable imponderabilities of my life.