It’s 5-Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker!!
And, on this first Friday of October, the word is…
The seven year old little girl was very, very nervous.
As an assignment in her 2nd grade class at school, the little girl had written a story. Her teacher had liked the story so much that she had asked the little girl to read her story in front of the entire rest of the school with all the students and their parents at the annual end of year awards banquet.
When the little girl had first written her story at the direction of her teacher, she, of course, hadn’t been thinking that what she had written would ever be read in front of anyone, much less that she herself would be the one reading it to everyone. She had simply taken the teacher’s prompt, “One morning, I woke up, and…” and had just gone with it, not caring about spelling or grammar or rhyme or reason, just carelessly in love with telling the story of her very own characters and never imagining in her seven year old little mind that her story would really ever go anywhere besides her own small classroom.
She had simply written because it was fun and she enjoyed doing it, and she had gotten a little carried away with her story too… while all the other students had only written a page or two, she had five pages, front and back. Now, the little girl was going to have to read those five pages. Out loud. In front of everyone. What if no one liked it? What if everybody laughed at all the wrong places?
So, that night in her pretty pink dress and matching bow, she was nervous, although a bit excited too, and was experiencing her very first case of butterflies.
As she slowly walked up to the stage, she clutched her story so tightly in her trembly, sweaty hands that she wrinkled the paper, and her shiny black patent leather shoes sounded very loud to her on the tiled floor. Once she reached the stage, the principal had to adjust the microphone because, even for a seven year old little girl, she was short. The too-bright light of the spotlight shone directly onto the stage, and, when the little girl risked a tiny glance into the crowd, all she could see was a blur of faces looking expectantly up at her. She gulped and quickly looked back down at her paper. Penciled words danced across the pages, and she struggled to find her place.
Earlier in the evening, her teacher, knowing she was anxious, had smiled kindly at the little girl and advised, “Just take a deep breath, and you’ll be fine.”
So she took that breath, took one more just because, and then began to read what she had written. At first the little girl’s voice was maybe a little soft and shaky but, as she continued to read, her voice became stronger – loud enough even to be heard over the “whap-whap-whap” of the fans circulating overhead. And her own words, the very words she had written herself, soon began to fill the banquet room.
The little girl was reading her story, a story about breakfast and aliens and homework and a really cool spaceship and an even cooler galaxy.
The audience of students and parents and teachers smiled and laughed at all the right places and, when she was done, everyone clapped. And the little girl smiled as she fairly skipped back to her seat.
“I’m so proud of you,” her daddy said. “You did a great job,” her momma told her. “I loved it,” a friend’s momma said.
There during a humid May evening in a crowded banquet room, the seven year old little girl experienced both the joyful headiness and the scary vulnerability of sharing her written word, her story, for the first time.
And, over the next years, she continued to write – more stories for school and stories to play with her dolls and plays to perform at Christmas time with her little sister and, later, essays and papers for school and articles for the school’s newspaper and some angsty teenage poetry and, even later after she grew up, plays and skits for the church and school where she worked, a little fanfiction, and even some blog-writing. Sometimes, her heart would get too full, so she would write… a poem for her husband, an eulogy for her grandfather, an essay after 9/11, stories for her children, and other little bits and pieces of things she’d start but never finish…
But, while she may have stayed intrigued with the power of sharply written words, fascinated by the craft of a good story, and in love with the beauty and melody of lyrical words, she really never wrote again with quite so much careless abandon as that seven year old little girl who wrote about aliens.
That seven year old little girl was me. That seven year old little girl was I.
The English major in me knows that “That seven year old little girl was I” is correct. The writer in me feels that “That seven year old little girl was me” sounds better. So I can’t decide which one to go with – me or I? And my internal monologue starts tripping me up. “If I say ‘me,’ people will think I don’t know how to write or speak correctly. If I say ‘I,’ it kinda sounds a little awkward.”
And the seven year old little girl who wrote about aliens wouldn’t have cared.