“What are you writin', Mama?” I questioned. I was seven years old and still couldn’t read cursive writing. My straw colored pigtails framed my face and my green eyes were round with wonder. I was interested in every move my mother made.
“A letter, Addy. Why?” She asked tenderly. She was so beautiful and I wanted to be just like her.
“Can I write a letter?” I squeaked, climbing up in her lap. Between my sister Anna and I Mama never got time alone.
Mama pulled out a piece of paper for me to write on and tickled me under my arms. “Of course you can!” she said with a smile.
I had barely finished my first sentence when I heard what sounded like a miniature pony slowly making its way across the hard wood floors in my parents’ room. I looked up from my letter to see Anna. She was wearing Mama’s slip, a hat, a face full of makeup, and Mama’s brand new brown high heels. She looked like a shrunken version of Mama and a little like a clown. Mama laughed and told her how beautiful she looked, sliding out from under me to go and help Anna get cleaned up.
I looked down at the paper before me and knew at that moment that I had to do something to outshine my baby sister. I scratched through the first sentence of my letter and decided to write a poem instead. Mama was always reading books of poetry on the porch, and some nights when I couldn’t sleep she would make me think of rhyming words to get my mind off of whatever was keeping me awake. Chair, hair, tear, swear, pear. My mind ran through words as I wrote the poem that set my dream of being a writer into motion.
My Mama is pretty and smells good to
My Mama is smart and wheres pretty shoos
My Mama has eyes that sparkel blue
My Mama, My Mama, I love you
I left the poem on her vanity and headed downstairs to beg Maria for kool aid. Maria almost always gave me what I wanted, and I liked her very much. My father was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee and I climbed onto his lap and gave him a big wet kiss. I loved him then, almost as much as I loved Mama. His stubble tickled my cheek and I wondered if I would find a man to marry who was as wonderful as him. I can’t help but laugh when I think back on that sincere wish from a seven year old girl… It is the exact opposite of my grown up heart's desires. Now I just hope to God that I never fall in love, because my faith in “mankind” has never been very high.
“Addy…” I heard my Mama say, she was coming down the hall toward the kitchen and I smiled. She was beaming! “I loved my poem honey pie!” She exclaimed, pulling me from my father’s lap and holding me tight. She handed the poem to him and he too smiled with pride. That was the moment that I knew I could write my way into the forefront of their hearts, leaving pretty Anna behind chasing bugs and gazing at stars.
The next several years of my life followed the same pattern of that afternoon. When I wanted to make them proud I would write a poem, master a piano piece, or paint a sunset. I fed off of their pride, and felt important when I could prove that looks weren’t all that mattered. Anna couldn’t care less what people thought of her, and didn’t seem to worry about anything other than being herself. Sometimes it felt like the harder I tried, the less she tried. Most of our childhood, until she discovered boys and I caught Father, was spent in this manner… A one sided competition for their praise.