I can’t remember the first time I ever wrote a story, but the earliest documented evidence I have is “The Two Orphans” (actually, the “Two Orpans”—my pencil didn’t have spell check), the story of two best friends who live in an orphanage, are separated by adoption, and eventually find their way under the same roof. The first line is: “One long, long time ago in one old, old building that was built in 1819, was a children’s orphanage. The children wore tattered clothes.” [sidenote: I was very, very proud of the word “tattered.”] The last line, less than ten pages later, was “The two best friends lived happily ever after.” I was nine.
After I finished, I proudly showed it to my father and he immediately went to work to get it published. He cut away pieces of cardboard from a box that once contained his 1986 American Express Appointment Book. He pulled out a roll of strong tape and put it all together to create what I consider my first hardcover.
My father not only leant me cardboard; he also let me use his office, pens, paper and typewriters.
If he was the publishing house then my mother was agent and manager. Any time she saw me writing, she’d ask, “When are you going to publish your first bestseller?” And I’d say: “I’m working on it, I’m working on it!”
My mother likes to joke that when she’d come into my room to read me bedtime stories, she was always the one who fell asleep. One of our favorites was The Cat in the Hat. We read it so often that we almost memorized the whole book. I can still recite some of it from memory: The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day … All we could do was sit! sit! sit! sit! And we did not like it. Not one little bit. I still recite it in my head sometimes when it’s raining.
When it was time for me to go to college, I wanted to major in English, but people kept telling me that people with English degrees never made any money. When I told my dad, he said not to listen to the naysayers—when you do what you love to do, everything falls into place.
May and June are considered the seasons to celebrate our parents. In my opinion, the key to parenting isn’t to be perfect. It’s to give your children a reason to celebrate you.
If you’re a parent, I hope you do.