As I wrote about a few weeks ago, my childhood best friend gifted me a masterclass with Judy Blume for my 40th birthday. As part of our first assignment, we were asked to write a letter as our childhood self. I’ve written letters to my childhood self from my present-day self, and vice versa, each time I’ve gone through The Artist’s Way path to creative recovery. Sometimes, they have been cautionary letters, nudging me not to forget certain aspects of my self or prepping me for the harder years to come. Sometimes, they have been enthusiastically encouraging letters meant to remind me of my youthful spirit and to inspire me to live more fully today. However, I don’t recall writing a letter that fully embodied that childhood self, truly remembering what it was like to be me at childhood, recalling a myriad of details and immersing in memories in a way that wasn’t narrowed and focused so sharply on giving my current self a message I needed to hear. And no longer having the journals I kept when I was a kid, I decided that digging back through my mental archives of childhood was a great exercise in recall. So that’s what I wound up doing for my first masterclass assignment; I enjoyed writing and reading it back so much that I’ve decided to share it here:
I wrote this as if I were writing the first letter to Kelly, a pen pal I had (through college, if you can believe it!)
My name is Renée, and I am 10 years old. Some of my friends call me Nay or Nay-Nay, but I like my real name just fine. I live in a small town in Connecticut with my mom, dad and my two big brothers. The oldest is in a rock and roll band called Rapid Fire. They rehearse in our basement, and their loud music rattles the floors. They sometimes let me get in front of the mic and sing along. And as I’m obviously their biggest and best fan, I get to be backstage to many of their shows.
My dad is their bass player. He dresses like Michael Jackson in Thriller (except in gray, not red) and wears white makeup like the members of the band Kiss. He’s easily the coolest dad I know, but he’s away a lot on business trips in North Carolina. I miss him a bunch, but he always brings me something special when he comes home. One time, he brought me home a glass music box shaped like a piano, with musical notes etched on the top. When you twist the key, it plays Für Elise again and again and again.
My mom says she used to play that song when she studied classical music growing up. I can’t imagine her giving recitals and attending debutante balls with her big, poofy, 50s-style hair when she was only a few years older than me. My mom is a business woman now, and she wears suits to work everyday. But she still looks like a teenager. I look really young for my age too. But I am strong enough to lift her off the ground–when I can sneak up on her. Mom claims to be embarrassed when I sing really loudly, talk in funny accents or give her big hugs and smooches in stores, but secretly, I think she loves it.
Mom comes to all our games and brings us to sports practices every day, but she can’t come to my chorus and band assemblies or go on school trips because she works all day. Sometimes I wish I got all of her attention when she comes home from work, but middle school and high school homework require her math genius. She studied math in college. I love math, too, though I love reading and writing more. And I don’t need her help doing homework…at least, not yet.
I want to be a teacher when I grow up. And an astronaut. And maybe study dolphin communication or chimpanzees and gorillas in the jungle, like Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. And, of course, I want to be a writer. I already write, but I can’t wait to see my published books in the library one day. The library is one of my favorite places in the world. The librarians used to laugh because I’d take out as many books out as they’d let me each week, but I read every one.
When I’m not reading, writing or playing sports (soccer, gymnastics and running really fast), I am hanging out with my best friend Dee. She is funny and smart and is really great at drawing. Sometimes we write stories together. Right now, we’re working on a detective series led by a mysterious butler. It’s really good so far. When we’re not coming up with stories, we’re playing in her big yard. I go to her house all the time for sleepovers. She also has a big brother. One time he picked her up by her overalls and gave her a big wedgie. While I felt bad for her, I laughed so hard and hard.
My brother Brian would never do that to me. He is my other best friend. He is four years older than me. He is a breakdancer and gymnast (like me), and he lets me hang out with him and his friends a lot. We always make silly faces at each other or pretend to dribble food out of our mouths to try to get the other to laugh. This is always done, of course, when my mom isn’t looking. He also likes to practice WWF wrestling moves on me when Mom isn’t looking. But he always makes sure I don’t get into real trouble. If I talk back or do something else I’m not supposed to do, he’s always threatening to tell Mom on me. But he almost never, ever does.
Sometimes, I wish we still spent as much time together as we did when I was a little kid. But I have my Siamese cat, Mindy, now for company. I always wanted a dog when I was younger, but one day my parents came home late from shopping on Saturday. My brothers ran out to help get the groceries, and they came running back excitedly. I thought for sure my parents brought home pizza–my favorite–but my brothers were carrying a big cardboard box. My dad said, “Watch out for BM [for bowel movement–ew!].” Surprised, I looked inside and there was a teeny, white kitten with blue eyes and black ears, paws and the part around her little pink nose. Her full name is Melinda Sue, and she was named after a character in one of the soap operas Dad and I watch when he’s home recovering from his back injury. My Mindy is mischievous, very talkative (some say whiney) and mostly only likes me. I wish she could sleep with me at night, but dad built her a cat condo in the garage that she loves to prowl around in. I want her to have kittens of her own one day!
Well, I guess that’s enough for now. Write back when you can.
TTYL (talk to ya later),