Yellowed pages stowed away in a dusty box somewhere in the attic. My first “story”, given as a gift to my grandmother many years ago, after a fall down the stairs sent her to the hospital. Within the aging pages, there are little crayon drawings of a bird, a tree, and a heart. Most of the sentences don’t really flow together, but the message is undeniable.
A love letter, from a grandson, to his matriarch. From a boy who loved making pancakes with his grandmother. Some days we’d mix in fresh slices of bananas. Or strawberries. Or blueberries. And she’d always mix in little life lessons.
How to show proper manners. Why we say please and thank you. The importance of listening before we speak.
I cherished my grandmother, and wanted her to get better. So I wrote her a story. My first ever piece of writing. My opening act. I colored some pictures. I told her I loved her. And I asked my first-grade classmates to sign it.
As a young student, I didn’t think of writing as a “school-thing”, but as a way to sort out my deepest feelings. A way to wrestle with difficult questions, and articulate my raw emotions with those around me. A way to tell grandma how I felt.
Writing was a vehicle to find, craft, and share my voice.
My grandma saved that story the rest of her days. She enjoyed it, not because it was a profound piece of literary wonder, but because it had a simple, yet simultaneously profound, message. A message of kindness. A message of hope. A message of unconditional love.
After she passed, the story was returned to me. I marvel as I fumble through the pages of scribbles, mixed-up letters, and emergent drawings. I wonder how something so basic, could have been so treasured.
And I see that my opening act wasn’t special because of it’s structure. It wasn’t treasured because of it’s vocabulary, or it’s sentence fluency. Grandma cherished the message. Grandma cherished my voice.
A life lesson she taught me, that still rings true today.