David Allen, a fellow writer, has given permission for me to republish one of his posts. I’ve been meaning to open up a category on play around the world for a while now, and David’s post has kickstarted that plan into reality. All being well, this will be an occasional series, as with a couple of my other categories. I shall ask permission to use pieces by other writers in my day-to-day online and real world contact with them, but I also know non-writers out there in ‘meatspace’ (I do like that phrase!) whose play stories I can collect from around the world.
So, onto David’s writing. This comes out of the United States, presumably, but what I was drawn to was not only a few insights into childhood play (which affirm beliefs in archetypal play), but moving on through life there’s also observation on interaction between the young adult and the teacher. I’ve taken the liberty of editing for spelling and punctuation (for a predominately UK readership).
I can’t remember my invisible friend’s name. But I remember he’d ride my tricycle and I’d push and pull him on it. The tricycle ended up being thrown in the blackberry bushes and I don’t remember playing with the nameless friend any more. I can’t remember the first book I read, but I can remember it was a collection of short stories that were abridged so that children could understand them. One of them contained the story of Rumpelstiltskin. It scared the shit out of me then and it still scares me now. I remember the first time I crashed my bike. I remember struggling to find the brakes. When I found the brakes, they only worked on the front tyre. I must have done a full flip before scraping across the gravel.
I remember writing terrible stories when I was a kid. Stories about dinosaurs, street fights, and senseless violence that I must have seen on TV. I remember stapling pages of computer paper together and making my own ‘real’ books. No lines though. I’d try to fill them up. I remember I wrote a story called The Ancients. It was terrible. But it was something I finished. It had something to do with discovering a cave that went so deep into the earth that dinosaurs came out of it. I was really into The Journey to the Center of the Earth and Jurassic Park. I remember trying to make book versions of movies that (unknown to me) were already based on books. I had a wild imagination at that time. I remember reading one of my terrible stories in front of my 5th grade class. I don’t think I wrote much of anything or read much of anything for a while after that.
I remember my first cigarette, stolen from my grandma’s carton above a counter in the kitchen. Virginia Slims. I don’t know why I took it. But the act of doing something I knew could get me into trouble thrilled me. I don’t think my heart has still ever beat that fast. I smoked my Virginia Slim in the backyard next to the campfire. I felt like a real cowboy. Tough, rugged, cool. For a child in 6th grade, I was a real ‘badass’. The next year I got my first skateboard for Christmas. Now I was really cool. The year after that I bought my first full pack of Marlboros. Or was it Camels? I remember they didn’t even card me.
I can’t remember ninety percent of my teachers’ names. I can remember the ones who cared about me though. I can remember the ones who didn’t care whether I played sports or not. The ones who searched and prodded and interrogated until they found what I was good at. I remember being told I was trying to live my life in a straight line, when what I really needed to do was take the scenic route. I remember being ashamed years later when I realised how much extra time certain teachers spent on me. I remember being positive certain teachers passed me simply because they knew where I was going after I graduated. I remember being miserable for a really long time.
I can barely remember the four years after graduating high school. The Marine Corps is a blur and I don’t think about it that much any more, other than the people I miss hanging out with. And the Marines who raised me. When I got out, I don’t remember what made me decide to go back to school. I don’t remember what made me start writing again. I don’t remember what made me want to write. But I remember I started getting good grades for the first time in my life. And I remember thinking about the teachers who cared about me. The teachers who saw through my act of trying to be cool and trying to fit in. The teachers who knew there was something in there that was worth encouraging, even if I didn’t see it. And even if I still don’t.