ADELINE: A MEMORY
“Grandma, I’d like to write a story.”
I hovered by the kitchen table where Grandma was sitting with her sewing machine. My little hands clutched a small stack of papers, each sheet scrawled with crayon illustrations. I had a story I wanted to tell, and I had already drawn the pictures. The problem was, I had just started kindergarten and still didn’t know how to write. I knew my alphabet, sure, both upper and lower-case letters, but aside from spelling my name, I couldn’t actually string those letters together to make words. Grandma, however, had that special power, and in order to finish my story, I needed her help.
She smiled and told me she would love to help me. She cleared off the table, and then I brought her a pencil and sat on her lap. I set my story pages on the table in front of us, and then she asked me, “So, what would you like me to write?”
The story I had in mind was about a sea monster that lived in the ruins of a sunken treasure ship. I had left a blank space for text at the top of each illustrated page, and as I told her my story out loud, Grandma filled in those spaces with my words. Page after page we continued, until my story was all written down. Then I asked her to read it back to me, asking her to change a line here and there when I realized a mistake or decided on a sentence that I liked better. Then, when everything was done, I stapled the pages together with a construction paper cover, put my name on the front with bold, black marker, and proudly presented it to my mom when she stopped by that night after work to pick me up.
I still have about thirty such “books,” written with Grandma’s help when I was in kindergarten and first grade (though few of them are obvious bestsellers). Looking back now, I can see just how influential that time with Grandma Adeline was for me. Always patient, always encouraging, she nourished a quiet seed in me that I hope will yield excellent fruit. Wherever I end up going as a writer, I owe my beginning to her.