“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
I count myself lucky. My parents always encouraged my curiosity. When I showed an interest in the old silents shown on our local PBS station, the house slowly began to fill with books on the subject. When Lillian Gish was signing a book on the films of her and her sister, Dorothy, my mother let me skip school so we could go to the book signing. When we got up to the table, I couldn’t help gushing how I’d loved her in Orphans in the Storm (1921) and Way Down East (1920). The film legend looked quite startled and asked, “How old are you, child?” But I have a book signed to me with the phrase “my youngest fan,” which I still treasure.
I read books, I watched television, I asked questions about the world around me. I was amazed to discover Dr. Seuss wrote books for a living, that when he got up and went to the office like my dad, that’s what he did. For years I pictured a doctor sitting in a office much like the one my pediatrician had, diplomas on the wall, sitting at his desk in a suit in tie as he wrote and drew stories such as “Green Eggs and Ham.” (As strange as it might sound, I still find the image somewhat inspiring.) And then, one evening as I was sitting on the couch, snarking at some rather bad TV movie with my parents — my mom can snark with the best of them — I uttered the words, “I can do better than that.”
Mom said, “Okay, let’s see what you can do.”
That’s when I started to write. First by hand, then by hunting and pecking on the typewriter, then learning how to actually type so the words could flow faster onto the paper from my brain. And my parents encouraged me. I began to read Writer’s Digest, which my mom was buying because she did some writing, books on structure, format, etc. I critiqued Mom’s never-completed gothic novel she started when those were hot in the market. It featured a monkey paw in it, which I realized had four fingers instead of the usual five. When I mentioned it to Mom, she said, “It’s a mutant monkey paw,” and kept typing.
So here I am, years later, still writing, still loving the old movies, still watching television and still buying books to learn more about things that catch my attention. Published or no, I do know that my life is richer because my parents encouraged my curiosity and let it take its course. For that, I will always be grateful.