My daughter becomes a writer
Last night I sat beside my daughter at the kitchen table has she did homework.
Haley had to write an original story using her spelling words. She worked the pencil and finessed the spelling words into this cute little story about being a teenager ticket-taker at a roller coaster on the New Jersey boardwalk.
She’s 10 and needs her space, so I pretend to look at my phone as I secretly watch her become a writer.
Memory mixes with imagination. Muddy thoughts are shined. The gears and belts and spark plugs of her brain push and pull and let out steam until something happens, something explodes, like a key just turned and her blue eyes fall and her pencil begins move like a magician twirling her wand.
Her mouth draws tight. Her eyes widen. Her right hand tucks some loose strands of blonde hair behind her ear.
The words pour out.
She wills her story into existence.
She’s a writer.
The roller coaster chugs up the tracks, hangs, then drops out of sight. A white and gray sea gull eats a french fry then scuttles on a pair of toothpick legs across the boardwalk. The roller coaster whips and screams. The smells of salt and sunscreen and funnel cake rise toward the sun glowing in a sky that is blue and cloudless and forever.
Her pencil stops. Her eyes roll upward, to the ceiling, to the heavens like mine do when I can’t find the words.
The television talks.
The boiler runs.
The clock ticks.
Her brain stirs. Her jaw tightens. Electric strikes and streaks down her chest and bolts into her left hand.
She’s writing again and she’s a teenager now, leaning on a silver railing that’s shining in the fading sunlight. She’s wearing white Converse sneakers and a name tag is pinned on her blue collared-shirt. With her blonde hair tucked behind a familiar ear, she’s bouncing on her toes, looking for someone, I imagine it’s a boy–the one that smiled her way last night. The ocean breaks, the sun sinks, the moon appears, and the roller coaster lights flash. It’s getting dark and the boardwalk glows with giddy possibility.
In this sandy stretch of time, new freedoms fool us into thinking that adulthood will never happen and life will always be as breezy as a boardwalk night.
Haley finishes writing, closes her imagination, closes her notebook, stands, and walks away.
I watch her climb the stairs to her room where she is spending more time now.
I should have warned her. Told her imagination is always safer than real life. But I didn’t.
Because, as a writer, there are some things you simply have to learn on your own.