My brother is ten years older than I am and, as any older sibling can confirm, I was completely attached to him when I was younger. Whenever possible, if he was doing something, I had to do it too. This wasn’t as easy as I would have liked, given his age. So any chance to be like my brother, I latched onto.
When my brother was assigned that essay his sophomore year of high school, my mother stepped up to spend hours at the archaic giant of a computer every night. Of course, being an attention-seeking, too-smart-for-my-own-good five-year-old, I wasn’t accustomed to, and didn’t appreciate, the lessening of the attention I got because of this. And so, determined to be included, I curled up against my mother’s leg as she and my brother fought at the computer, secretly paying attention to their talks of research and citations and sentence structure.
I was a smart, literate child to begin with, mastering small books by the unsettling age of three. And what I didn’t understand, well, I’d try my hardest to learn as they talked. It was more stubbornness and a wish to be included, than anything else.
One day, after my brother’s essay was long turned in, I pulled myself up to the old desktop computer, asked my father how to create a Word document, and decided to prove myself to my mom and, more importantly, my big brother.
But what could I write about? What could I possibly write about that would impress my mother and brother who, I was sure, knew everything?
In the end, the answer was simple. What five-year-old couldn’t write about this? Dinosaurs, of course. I had enough books passed down from my brother. Better yet, the Land Before Time movies were on TV all the time.
So, I got to work.
The result was a short “essay” on everything I knew about dinosaurs, even the dinosaurs who breathed fire; about half a page, complete with pictures.
Proud of myself in the way only a little kid can be, I printed it and left it on the dining room table for my mother when she came home from work.
When she finally did, I was already distracted by cartoons, and so didn’t run to meet her at the door, flailing my project in her startled face. Instead, she had casually come across the paper and read it before asking my father who wrote it. He pointed to me and shrugged. “Sabrina did.”
“No she didn’t,” my mother argued. “She couldn’t have. Paul,” she called my brother over. “Did you write this? As a joke or something?”
“No,” he answered in the monosyllabic way so popular with teenagers.
“Then who did?” She challenged rhetorically.
My mother looked from the paper in her hand to the five-year-old sitting on the couch.
Finally, my mother asked me if I had written the “essay”, supposedly far too advanced for me to be able to write.
“Yes…?” I answered nervously, not wanting to lie, but nervous about all of the fuss.
My mother, shocked, framed the piece and hung it proudly in her office until years later, I begged her to take it down, embarrassed as I was with what I considered to be atrocious writing.
But five-year-old me continued to write. And noticing my gift for writing, my father one day told me, when I was seven or so, that I could actually do that as a job.
Immediately, all thoughts of being a veterinarian or a ballerina or princess stopped flying around my head. From that point on, I knew exactly who I was, and what I was doing with my life, a mind-blowing thought for a pre-pubescent.
I was, and still am, a writer.