Writing with a Timer: a Childhood Memory

A few months ago, I discovered a delightful blog about writing, one that comes complete with prompts. Timed prompts. I am discovering that this an absolutely crucial element for me. In order for my words to flow best, I need a clock ticking. I don’t completely ‘get’ this phenomenon, but I’m guessing it’s somehow tied to this sad truth learned in high school: the essay I sweat over the night before will earn a B+ at most. The essay I hurriedly scribble at lunchtime, just before the bell rings for English class, will get an A. This knowledge did not help my academic career or my sanity. I have spent way too many sleepless nights completing assignments I have left til the last minute – because, you know, it just ‘flows better that way.’ Oy vey. At any rate, please check out Joe Bunting’s wonderful place. Here is a link to today’s prompt – http://thewritepractice.com/who-are-you-writing-for/

And here is the interesting story that came to my mind when I read it. My answer to Joe’s question – “Who are you writing for?” – was the same answer it’s been for a while now. I write first for my granddaughters. They are too young to read much of this now, but someday – perhaps about the time I’ve honed my skills enough to compile the bits and pieces of my life and my reflections into some sort of cohesive whole! – they just might.  A funny – as in funny-peculiar, not so much funny-ha-ha – memory is what came out my fingertips during this 15 minute trip to the past. Maybe someone out there can relate to this hyper-imaginative child?

We took a trip to the park, my parents, my younger brother and I. It was a big park, one I’d never seen before, filled with tall, tall trees and wide-reaching ferns, with winding pathways and waiting-to-be-explored fairy hollows. I remember being overwhelmed by green, all different shades and textures of green. I think I was about seven or eight years old, so my brother would have been five or six.

The shadows were deep in this place, sunlight flickering down between branches and leaves. I noticed the interesting way those flickers made our faces look different than usual,
creating creases and shadows, shades of color we’d never exhibited at home. It was fascinating and a little bit frightening, too.

We lived in the San Fernando Valley, in a ‘new’ housing development. We had no trees to speak of, nothing with big, leafy branches stretching high and wide. So my usual landscape looked open, almost flat. I loved the way the shady side of the house nourished calla lilies and small ferns, but there was nothing on my street to match the size and spread of these trees, nothing to create such enchanting shadow play.

My brother and I found a small bench in the curve of a pathway, and behind the bench was a small open space where we could sit on the ground, luxuriating beneath those big, cool trees. We climbed back there and enjoyed ourselves, imagining a tiny world of elves and fairies all around us. My parents decided to keep exploring the park and told us to stay where we were while they continued to walk. We blithely agreed and returned to our imaginative games. I remember watching them turn the bend up ahead, disappearing from our line of vision.

We enjoyed our woodland hideaway for quite a while – until my brother got bored with the whole elf and fairy idea and began to beat the bushes, hunting wild game! I tried to maintain my beautiful tiny world, but found it much harder to do without someone else’s imagination to bolster my own. And I began to feel just the slightest twinge of anxiety about the truth that I did not know where my parents were.

That was a new feeling for me. I ALWAYS knew where they were. Daddy went to work, Mommy stayed at home with Tom and with me. She took us to the store sometimes, she walked us over to our cousins’ house, she had coffee with a neighbor and we went along. We weren’t left alone very often, that’s for sure.

So as I waited in the woods, I found my heart beating a little bit faster than usual. And my imagination kicking into overdrive. “Where are they?” I wondered. “Maybe they’ve been kidnapped!” “Maybe they’re never coming back!”

After about five minutes of that kind of thinking, I was good and truly scared. Then, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw them, turning on the pathway just up the hill from us! They were coming around a bend and they were deeply engrossed in conversation. Such relief! It flooded over me in waves.

For about one minute.

Then another whole set of questions began tumbling around in my head:

“Well, it looks like Mommy and Daddy, but can I be sure it’s really them?”

“What if someone came from outer space and sucked them out of their bodies and replaced them with someone I don’t know?”

“What if …?”

“What if…?

And you want to know the really weird part? I kept wondering about that for years and years. 

In fact, sometimes I still think it might have happened.

Putting this one into the mix over at L.L’s place, and Laura’s, too. Somehow it seems to fit both of their invitations this week: On In Around button

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  1. Diana, your granddaughters will love your stories. In your post today you created a vivid picture of both your setting and your emotions. Good job.

    I grew up surrounded by deep forests, usually soggy, and remember playing with twigs and moss and frogs, so your story brought back lots of memories. But you were much more imaginative than I was: what fun to read about your fairy hollows and your tiny world of elves and fairies. 🙂


  2. Oh, Diana… you’ve made me smile… again! You’ve given me an idea. Maybe on my really bad days, I’ll just explain that an alien invasion really happened to me while my kids were at school. 😉 Your granddaughters are going to have a wonderful time reading these.

  3. Your writing emphasizes our common humanity. The details are somewhat different but the wondering, fear, and continued reflection are very similar. Thanks again.

  4. I love this story, Diana. You give so much detail…I was right there in the park with you and Tom. Did you really time this? It’s so rich with detail. Maybe that’s what remembering does…gives freedom to our words. In any case. Lovely.

  5. Yes, Laura – I did set the timer. I spent a further 2 minutes doing a tiny bit of editing, but then left it alone as that was not the ‘assignment.’ I will forever be the ‘good student,’ I think, not wanting to break the rules to badly! Maybe that’s the reason timed prompts work so well!

    And thanks Linda, Pat, Jim and Laura B for taking the time to leave a comment. They’re few and far between on this blog, so I am always grateful to see your names and I remember your encouragement for a long time. When I wonder if I should keep doing this out here, thee words help.