Back in the day of funky melodies, octagon shaped Afro’s and tight corduroy pants my family and I would load up the old station wagon and head somewhere out-of-state to visit one of our delightful relatives every summer. Though, we always had fun on our little escapades from Dayton, I remember the summer right before my third grade year, we took an unexpected road trip from Ohio to California. As you can imagine, it was the longest trip of all time. I sat in the back seat with my older sister and younger brother for what seemed like centuries, instead of days. Most of the drive was spent smoldering under the high desert sun like strips of turkey bacon in a frying pan. In between playing pat-a-cake games and trying to braid Barbie’s freshly-snipped hair, I would lightly tap Mama on the shoulder to gain her attention from whatever book she was reading and ask the dreaded but much-needed question, “Are we there yet…Are we there yet?”
Mama would turn her neck sharply and give me the death stare while she bit down on her lip, “No, not yet, Mel Mel.”
“But there’s nothing to do”, I’d echo back hoping not to sound too demanding for an eight year old child –which might have warranted, “the look”; or a seat on the side of the road. Instead, Mama just sighed and handed me a piece of blank paper that I assumed was torn from the back of the book she was eagerly turning the pages to. Oh yes! She knew I loved to draw. I grabbed my jumbo pack of crayons from under the seat and sank into the leather cushion.
As I stared out of the window, making honking motions to passing truck drivers, I suddenly noticed how incredibly blue the sky was among the cotton laced clouds. And how the mountains cascaded around us blushed with the brightest red I had ever seen. I folded my paper in half and began to color the bluest sky, the reddest mountains and the fluffiest clouds. I even drew our golden station wagon beaming down the road against the unforgiving sun. I thought my neatly colored landscape was absolutely awesome as I danced the drawing back and forth in front of my siblings. When I was satisfied with my impromptu art show, I carefully tucked my drawing away safely under the seat.
After a few days of hotels, fast food and the occasional pit stop, we had finally made it to our destination, unscathed but chafed. During our visit we enjoyed the great California Beaches, beautiful clear skies, monumental sites, “celebrity” sightings, good food and great times with family. And I had the pleasure of illustrating it all down in my trusty handmade art journal!
By the time my family and I had arrived back home to Dayton, school was already in session. Mrs. Cook, my third grade teacher, stood in front of the chalkboard as she adjusted her over-sized spectacles and said, “Children, I want you all to write a one page story about what you did over the Summer. And you’ll have to read your paper aloud in the class, so be ready!” Although, I wasn’t too keen on standing up and speaking in front of my classmates, I was anxious to get started on my writing assignment. I knew I had the perfect story to tell.
As soon as, I got home that day, I gathered up all of my rainbow colored crayon drawings and decided that each scene showcasing our sweet summer vacay in California needed a short caption detailing the events along with some warm, friendly dialogue. Then, I thought, it would look really nice if I glued the folded pages together, added page numbers, a front and back cover, a title page, and inserted a blank page at the end. When my spontaneous DIY project/essay was completed, I had my very own hand-crafted, work of art, which I dedicated to Mama.
In hindsight, I have the slightest idea of what made me go as far as to create my own picture book at such a young age, when all I needed to do, was write a one page story. Maybe it’s because there was no Facebook or Instagram back then. I don’t know. But, I do know that my parents, teacher, and classmates thought my book was just a dynamite idea. So much so, Mrs. Cook entered my little glued-together book of torn papers, fittingly titled, My Trip to California, into a city-wide scholastic competition, with permission from my parents of course.
When I received the news that I had won the competition, I was happier than a kitten with a ball of yarn. I walked, wide-eyed, up on stage in front of a packed auditorium of strangers cheering me on as the principal pinned a blue ribbon on my puffy white blouse and handed me a plaque with my name inscribed in big, sparkly gold letters. That’s the moment I realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life…as an artist and a writer. And when my mother smiled at me from ear to ear with tears streaming down her cheeks…I knew it even more.
So, what if my family and I had never gone on that trip to California? What if my mother never handed me that piece of paper? Or how about my teacher never asking the question, “What did you do over summer vacation?” I figure, no matter where your creativity, skills or inspirations come from it will manifest within its own time and in its own place. Because the passion is already instilled in you to find, pursue and accomplish your dreams.
My path to creativity has been exciting, rewarding and sometimes exhausting, but I have learned from my past mistakes and continue to press on towards my aspirations as a writer with a never-ending flame from childhood lighting my soul on fire.
Eng 1101 – Semester I
5 September 2017