The most gorgeous 5-yr-old in the universe (aka my daughter, Miss B.) was awarded a certificate at her school assembly this morning.
The certificate read: “For writing some awesome stories so far this year. You are trying so hard with your writing!”
Miss B. is turning into quite a storyteller. Every morning after mat time the children get out their exercise books and choose a topic to write about. They then set about filling their pages with assorted symbols and scribbles that resemble (some more loosely than others) words and sentences. I applaud them wholeheartedly. I mean, she’s only been at school since last June, and already she’s independently “writing” three-page stories about all sorts of happenings in her world. It is literally unbelievable how fast little minds learn.
The other day her new teacher gestured me over after school and said I might like to read a “rather special” story Miss B. had written that morning. Knowing my daughter as I do, I opened her book with some trepidation. She could have written an account of how I look without my clothes on, or a thoughtful meditation on the length of time her father spends in the toilet. It’s all fair game.
As soon as I saw the page in question I was a goner, but I bit my lip and desperately tried to suppress the laughter. Miss B. was standing proudly by, obviously expecting me to take her efforts seriously.
On a double page spread, Miss B. had told the story of her Hurty Bottom. Two years previously we had ended up at the hospital with a distraught little girl who refused to wee, her belly tight as a drum. It was a classic bladder infection, and after a painful episode that morning which no doubt had felt like she was peeing razor blades, Miss B. had refused to try again. Nothing could convince her that she needed to empty her poor stretched bladder or she would be in big trouble. It was a quick progression from the doctor’s to the hospital, where eventually a rather alarming syringe of body relaxant was shot up her protesting little nostril, a numbing gel was spread on her tender bits and the potty was finally full. A prescription of antibiotics was handed to her extremely relieved mother and that was that.
The following week Miss B. was in the toilet, and after an uneventful few seconds she looked up at me with a big smile, and said: “Mummy! I’m all done with my hurty bottom!”
It’s become legend in our household, the hurty bottom story. It has reached almost mythical proportions. And here it was in all its pencilly glory, complete with – wait for it – pictures. Including one of the hurty bottom itself. I nearly wet my pants. (Which would have been quite apt, given the story’s subject matter.)
The Hurty Bottom story was certainly a highlight, but the book is starting to fill with all kinds of interesting and varied tales, told in a voice that is uniquely hers. She’s got the knack, this girl. She’ll start a paragraph like this: “On the way back from the festival we stopped to see a man juggling. Now, this was a very clever man….” She writes in a way that strikes me as quite grown up, and very engaging. And her subject matter is always imaginative.
Obviously the spelling and grammar is often hit and miss – I don’t envy her teacher trying to decipher some of the sentences – but the point is, Miss B. is starting to discover the magic of storytelling. And in a funny, parallel way, so am I.
I am still battering away at my novel – nearly 28,000 words now. Every day really is a discovery.
Sharon O’Brien said this:
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
That is exactly how it feels, this novel writing adventure. A lot of it may be crap, but right now I don’t care. The process is magic.
Now, the question is this: Is this urge to write – to tell stories, to capture the magic – innate or inherited? Does Miss B. love writing because she has the gene within her already, the one that drives her to “fill her paper with the breathings of her heart”? (Thank you William Wordsworth.) Or is it because she is observing me and learning what it is like to fall in love with language?
Both, I hope.