I’ve always had the desire to write beautifully, from penmanship to placement and flow of the words. I remember getting birthday cards from my Granny with elegant cursive writing. Attracted to the way each word blended so smooth and soft, I would get a piece of paper and mimic the slants of each word connecting each letter, more like one lowercase “l” after another, to the next. One day I’d be able to spell the words in my mind, and until that day I’d practice my “cursive” one squiggly line at a time. Penmanship was the first to spark my interest in literacy, but the words and descriptive details my mom and dad would read in our bedtime stories also struck a fire in the desire to know more. I remember “camping” with my best friend, who was also my next door neighbor, in our backyards telling ghost stories. Holding a flashlight up under my chin, I’d start in a mysterious voice, “Once upon a time, there were three little pigs,” telling a very short version of the three little pigs. I would struggle to remember the details of the story to make it spooky. I knew words like “big and bad,” describing the wolf, meant he was scary. These simple details in my childhood were essentially the beginning building blocks to my literary future.
As I write this, I have my four year old niece sitting next to me saying, “Wow, you have a lot of drawing on your page!” All I can do is laugh to myself and think that was once me, not knowing the meaning of each word and innocently intrigued by the simple presence of words on a paper. This interest would soon turn into the curiosity to read. Hoping to read as gracefully as my mother when she read bible stories before my twin sister and I would drift off to sleep, I was devastated to find out I didn’t read as well as the other children. In fact, I had to be pulled from my reading class to a remedial class with one on one interaction between the teacher and student. As disappointed as I was then, I’ll forever be grateful for the awareness the teachers at Stonegate Elementary School had of my problem. They helped improve my reading fluency and comprehension, enough so I wouldn’t further struggle. In turn, this taught me accepting help when needed is nothing to be embarrassed about. That being said, as I stated before, being intrigued with penmanship early in my childhood, handwriting is where I thrived. I remember practicing my cursive in classes I shouldn’t have been practicing. At the end of my 5th grade year, all of the students joined in a large room and were handed awards. Awarded best penmanship, I was thrilled with my success, especially having struggled with my reading abilities. I believe this was my first well-learned lesson. Practice makes perfect.
Transitioning into high school, I became distracted with the territory. My social life became a higher priority, I started driving, and boys became much more interesting. Why would I need to focus on my studies?? Pfff.. I was carefree, but my ignorance was definitely not bliss. My grades started to struggle, and teenage troubles were just around the corner if a significant change wasn’t in my near future. I owe that change in my pace to my 10th and 11th grade English teacher, Coach Chaney. He, unlike most of my teachers, made learning fun, and for a 15 and 16 year old that’s saying a lot. We read books like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Odyssey. I thank him for getting me interested in reading again and in essence saving my high school progress.
After my junior year with Coach Chaney, I really enjoyed reading and writing, not saying I was great at it, nonetheless I took comfort in it. My best friend, Craig, was two years older than I, and he was in the military. He was sent overseas to Japan, and that’s where the letter writing began. I missed him. I wanted to be able to write what I was feeling, conveying true emotion, in my letters. So, I wrote him day and night. Sometimes my letters were upbeat, silly, funny letters, and other times they’d be sad, “I miss you” letters, but all were wrote from the heart. That is how I learned to let my personality shine through my words. Seeing as I wouldn’t see my best friend for 12 months, my words were the glue to our bond. Those letters and that year without my best friend helped me realize I loved this man more than I thought. When he returned, we began to date and soon fell in love. We married a few years later, and I can honestly say our great communication is thanks to our letters that built our trust, love, and commitment to each other.
Craig and I had our first baby girl, Ellie Grace, on June 23, 2012. She is my inspiration to be back in school. Furthering my education and building a stable environment for my family is my priority. Reading her bedtime stories, out of the same books my mother and father read to us, gives my heart such joy. It gives me hope that maybe one day she will be writing about me reading to her. The tradition will continue, and a legacy will further grow expanding our family’s literacy journey.