I hung on the schoolyard fence through most of the fifth year of my life, watching school kids play on the swings, teeter-totters, merry-go-round, or play catch and kick balls.
I really, really wanted to go to school.
And then the first day of the first grade, I discovered a dark-haired little girl named Marion who already knew stuff I didn’t know…and she was only a girl.
I knew stuff all right, like how to chunk a rock, split kindling, pick blackberries, climb trees, ride horses, and catch fish…boy stuff.
But she knew an amazing thing: she could write words on the blackboard. All I could write was “Rod.”
By the end of the first week, I had mastered a short list of words: the, run, and, ball, hat, cat, fat…those first words we learned in first grade way back when. Best of all, I knew I was gaining on Marion when I found a word she didn’t know yet.
To this day, I blame Marion for my compulsion to learn new stuff and to write about it. If she hadn’t walked to the blackboard and written “the,” I might have been content with knowing boy stuff, but I knew I wasn’t going to let a mere slip of a girl child know more than me. (I know. It should be “more than I,” but six year old boys say “me.”)
I’d like to think I outgrew that competitive drive to know more than my classmates and moved on to a higher altruistic level of artistic compulsion, but when I read a really good novel, I’m back at the keyboard wanting to see if I can write a better story than “that.”