One of the reasons I turned to writing at a young age is that I couldn’t always express myself accurately when talking.
I’m an only child and grew up in a relatively non verbal household, so I never learned how to orally articulate my thoughts and feelings.
And in school, I paid for this shortcoming big time.
Once, I went into class having been galvanized by a TV movie I’d seen the night before about the holocaust. It was powerful and educational, not your usual prime-time fare, and I was really hot to share my experience with the other kids.
“That movie was amazing” I enthused to a Jewish classmate of mine.
She turned pale and became livid.
“How dare you say it was amazing?” she started shrieking, to my utter shock. “Millions of people died in the holocaust, including my grandparents, and that movie was all about the horror of this terrible nightmare. It was the most terrible moment in history…”
Huh? Yes, I knew all that. All I meant was that the movie was…you know, amazing. Maybe if I’d said “powerful”?
Another time, the teacher told us some official would be visiting our class the next week and asked us what kinds of activities we should do in front of him.
People were suggesting all sorts of poems we could read and games we could play.
I timidly raised my hand and said, “How about if we sing ‘El Coqui’?”
That was a Spanish folk tune the teacher had taught us and which we always loved to trot out for a good time.
Everyone looked at me as if I were Hitler.
“What???” said the teacher. “How ridiculous! We’re talking about what we should do for Mr. Jones and you want to sing ‘El Coqui’???”
They all thought I wanted to sing it right then and there.
The killer is, about five minutes later some brown-nose raised his hand and said, “Should we sing ‘El Coqui’ for Mr. Jones?” and the teacher went wild with admiration.
“Great idea!” she beamed, as all the other kids oohed and ahhed in agreement.
That’s when I turned to writing.