My Origin Story
Written for the DP Challenge: Writerly Reflections
When I was thirteen, I asked my mother if she wanted me.
See, in school that day, the topic brought up over tater tots and milk cartons was of bastard babies and whether we were ones. Naturally as soon as I got home, I popped the question to my mother. “Did you want me? Was I planned?”
My mother paused from cooking and wrapped me in her arms. “You have no idea how much I wanted you.”
I thought nothing of it until I went to bed. That’s when I remembered that before me, I had four other siblings.
I didn’t know what their names were, hesitated to even ask if my parents had gotten to name them before they were lost, but reflecting on that, it was clear that yeah, I had been wanted.
And though, I knew deep in my heart that I was/am precious to my mother, there was a period of my very young life where I felt deep resentment towards my parents. That’s where books opened my eyes to what I had.
From when we were babies, my brother and I, we were by our mother’s side everywhere she went, including work. My mother worked cleaning houses and to this day, I’m still amazed at how she bravely marched from home to home, carrying us with her. At first, she’d plant us in a corner with toys and blankets and somehow we understood her pleading to stay in one spot and to keep quiet. Then, as we got older, she’d bring piles and piles of picture books and leave them in front of us. I was three and my brother was two.
We didn’t know how to read. But we could entertain ourselves with the pictures. So we did. Day after day, we flipped through old picture books bought from yard sales or given by friends and since at night, our mother would read to us from the very same books, we could later piece together what we were looking at and when the stories would change when we ‘read’ them by ourselves.
When I finally entered k-4, I already could read the “See spot run” books pretty well. And all that was due to a mother who could hardly speak English herself.
Once I improved my reading abilities, my mother would bring me to the library on the weekends and I would take out stacks and stacks of books. Then, later when she’d take us to work, I would read to my little brother.
Those books were how we escaped.
A lot of people say that when you’re young, you feel no shame – looks wise and all.
That’s not true.
I knew what embarrassment was back then and I felt it, hardcore. Deep in the pit of my stomach and often I’d wish the ground would swallow me whole. I was four and I cringed under the gaze of the random people who lived in those houses. I dreaded the day where I’d end up seeing them at a grocery store or their kids at school. That, I think, was the worse.
Every time my mother would walk into someone else’s home, carrying her supplies, I would trail in after her with my brother and the first thing I did, was drag ourselves to a corner, away from hopefully everyone who lived there. I prayed no one would look at me or him. I curled in that corner and sometimes I’d cry at how embarrassed I felt.
Other kids had parents who were lawyers, firefighters, and doctors.
I had a mother who cleaned up after everyone else and a father who cut people’s lawns.
Back then, I felt like I had nothing to be proud of.
But, reading kept me going, kept me from focusing on the mean comments the kids of those houses whispered about my brother and I, and finally kept me from feeling the shame I shouldn’t have felt – even if only for a few hours. That is how I fell in love with books. Because escaping the real world was suddenly a possibility and all I had to do was open a book.
When I grew older, I started to experiment with writing my own things. I wanted to create something that some one else could escape in. How wonderful would that be, I’d think to myself. If my words, even just for a second, could shield someone from an ounce of pain. Now I know I had nothing to be ashamed of. Now I feel proud of my mother and love her all the more for what she did for us. Those houses were how my brother and I stayed in private school all throughout pre-school, elementary, and most of middle school. But I didn’t think that then. And I know a lot of kids don’t think that then.
So I started writing.
I wasn’t very good.
But, I did have very encouraging teachers who even bought my ‘chapters’ from me (there’s no love like a teacher’s love), just to keep me from giving up.
I think the very first story I wrote was about a superhero and all his adventures. My dad still keeps it on his computer and has several back ups of all the chapters I had written. Every now and again, I re-read them and make fun of myself for ever writing them. All harmless though and it brings back very good memories.
Someday, I hope to be published.
In the meantime, I steadily try to improve my writing, by writing when I can and as much as I can. I show my stuff to friends, teachers, and yes, online. Every comment, negative or positive, is truly helpful and my confidence grows.
One day, I’ll have something of mine be published. And then I’ll sit down next to her, and I’ll read my book to her. And she’ll know how much I’m glad she wanted me.
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”
― William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets