Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Makings of a Writer

Not me, but I was totally this cute

I have been a writer for as long as I can remember.  I think one of the earliest pieces of writing I have is from when I was in 1st grade.  I wrote my parents a letter that states: "Dear, Famile. (insert several stars and hearts here).  I am goeing awoy becuse (sister) has ben agervading my incibes incides out.  Love, (Autodidactpoet).  (Translation: Dear Family, I am going away because (sister) has been aggravating my insides out). 
Another prime example of my early writing comes from a journal when I was in 2nd grade.  It reads like this: "Thesmorning whan The bus came my sister (name) kisted me so hard and so closeto my nose that my nose bone started to hert."  There's a picture of us at the bus stop with me with a "herting nose bone."    What about that doesn't scream of greatness?
In 1996, however, my writing exploded and my talent soared to heights I have yet to recreate, and it was all due to one character.  I have no idea where this character came from, but my 11 year old mind created this character, who will one day be loved by children everywhere: Sam Funny.  Sam Funny is a 5 year old hippo and, after the success of "Sam's Hanukkah" (which won the 11-15 year old fiction prize in the county's writing competition, thank you*), I wrote "Sam's Ballet Class," "Sam Becomes Vegetarian," "Sam Goes to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship," and "Sam Becomes Homeschooled."  Of course, I was also vegetarian, homeschooled, and Unitarian Universalist, celebrated Hanukkah with my dad's family, and was a dancer.  I like to think of Sam's Ballet Class as the first example of a time I tackled writing about gender politics, as Sam was a boy who was made fun of for taking ballet (as was one of my best friends at the time). 
Here today, in its original form, complete and unabridged,  for the first time since 1996, I am going to share the story of "Sam's Hanukkah," (otherwise known as "The Story That Inspired It All").
Sam was going to Hanukkah dinner.  This year, it fell on the 13th of December, but that was the day Sam's playgroup went to the swamp.  So Sam's mother tried to pick him up early, but he didn't seem to want to leave.  Sam's sister, Maxine, carried him to the car in her best dress.  "To think that I put on all that perfume just to get to smell like a swamp!" said Maxine disgustedly.
"I always wanted to smell like this," said Sam.
When they reached their yellow house on Neighborly Lane, they saw their neighbor, Mr. Grump.  He took one look at the muddy family and turned away. 
"I guess Mr. Grump isn't being very neighborly today," sighed Maxine.
"No wonder!" said their father who had been waiting for them.
"DADDY!" cried Sam as the muddy figure ran and hugged his clean father.  There was an uneasy silence until his father said, " I guess I'll go change."
Not Sam.  He's definitely cuter.
Then came the trouble of getting Sam in his suit and tie.  The trouble was his mother practically had to shove him into it.  Sam howled, "why can't I wear my Bahama shorts and top!?!"
"Because it's the...whew, you really are getting big, Sam...middle of December...and...and..."
"It just isn't appropriate," said Maxine walking in.
"Exactly!" said his mother.
When the whole family was dressed and on their way, Sam's mother said, "now remember Sam, BE POLITE."
"And eat your kugel even if it is hard," added his father.
"And be kind to Aunt Ern," said Maxine as they drove up the drive to Aunt Ern's cottage.
They all piled out of the car and walked up to the door.  Mom rang the bell and they heard a thousand voices saying, "I'll get it!"
"Let Johnny get it," said a voice.  The door flew open and so did Sam's mouth because there stood his cousin in his Bahama shorts and top.  Sam's family swallowed hard.
"Look at Sam!" exclaimed Uncle Bert.
"Isn't he cunning?" said Aunt May.
"He's really adorable," said Aunt Ern.  Sam hid behind his mother.
"Has the cat got your tongue?" asked Uncle Max.  Sam peeked out and stuck out his tongue.
"Uhhhhh!" his aunts gasped.
"He's really literal about things," said Sam's mother with a fake laugh. 
"Dinner's read," said Aunt Ern in a flat tone.  Everyone ate in silence until Aunt Ern asked, " well, is the food good?"
"The kugel's hard," said Aunt May.
"I think it's wonderful!" said Sam.
"Bless his little heart," Aunt Ern said sweetly.
"I think the bagels are too dry.  I guess I'll have to talk to the baker," said Aunt Ern.
"Not when you put cream cheese on them!" said Sam, happy to be getting on his aunt's good side again.  Somehow, everyone found something to complain about, but Sam liked everything.
After dinner, Uncle Bert said, "well, well, is it time to say the blessing over the Hanukkah candles?  Jonny, will you say it this year?"
"Um...ahh...sure, I guess so."
Believe it or not, Google Images
did not have a picture of a hippo
lighting a menorah.

"Um, what is the blessing?"
"All right, I guess Johnny won't say it this year.  Veronica?  Naomi?  Kristen?"  They all looked at the ceiling.
"I'll say the blessing, Uncle Bert!" cried Sam.  Uncle Bert looked touched.
"Why yes, say it Sam."
"Adorable, just adorable," sighed his aunts.
"Go ahead, Sam," said his father.  The lights dimmed as Sam sang, "Baruch ata adonai, eloheynu melach ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvotav, vitzivanu, l'hadlik ner, shel Hanukkah."
Everyone clapped and cheered, "bravo Sam, bravo!"  As they turned up the lights, they saw Sam fast asleep on the chair. 
"Bless his little heart," Aunt Ern said.
"Well, we really have to go.  Thank you for everything, it was lovely," said Sam's mother.
"Oh, don't mention it," they said.
"Well goodbye, goodbye!"
As the family piled into the car, Sam popped his eyes open and said, "did you see Johnny in his Bahama shorts and top?  That sure wasn't appropriate, was it?"
"Go to bed you stinker," said Maxine.
"I can't wait till next Hanukkah," sighed Sam as he fell asleep.

*I think I was also the ONLY one who entered the fiction writing competition in the 11-15 year old age group, but that's hardly my point.


  1. I love it! You write better than I did at 11 I am pretty sure. Mine tended to ramble and stop in the middle of the story =)

  2. Wish I had saved some of my notebooks where I would write every chance I could. Although, now that I just said that, I'm glad they are long gone.

    The quality of the writing was just awful I'm sure. I loved to go into a lot of detail, as I recall, and the details were not anything I'd care to read again.

    I didn't have a "Sam Funny" but I sure could have used him!

    Peace ...

  3. What a wonderful story! A born writer, you are.