Growing up I remember of fond memories. Dancing around, teaching to people that remained in my imagination, jumping on the bed and singing to my Celine Dion favourite “I drove all niiight to get to you“. Loads of fun and, yes, people thought I was weird but who cares? One memory that resurfaced on the golden pink sand of my thoughts in the past couple of days that helps me make some sense in my journey of aspiring to be a writer was an assignment we had in fourth grade.
It was pretty much straight forward to most. “The traditional games of my country”. The first thoughts that went into MY head: “I don’t know dude! What are you looking for? This is so vast! Where do I begin? What do you want from me?” Although I was overwhelmed, I had to remind myself that it was just an assignment, and I was doomed to write it anyways. Call it my need to get a good grade (which was highly unlikely with the frowny 60 year old teacher I had back then), my need to prove myself to me, my need to not attract unnecessary attention from my parents (they had enough to deal with already), my duty. So I convinced myself “Sabrina, stop it with the “Why me?” thoughts already and get it done!”. I guess I intuitively knew, the faster I could write it, the faster I could go create drama scenarios with my Barbie dolls.
Once I got home, I got my white, lined notebook with the typical “Δεν ξεχνώ και αγωνίζομαι”, translated “I don’t forget and I fight” pictures, I wrote the title of the essay, underlined it carefully and looked at it.
The staring didn’t stop unfortunately. It kept going for a couple of seconds. The seconds turned into minutes and the minutes turned into hours! I had been staring at this piece of blank page for a looooong time. It felt endless and confusing, not knowing where to start. I tried to make a list, trust me! But what was I supposed to write about? Barbie Dolls? I wouldn’t dare! How would I describe the shameless, soap opera and sometimes PG 18+ scenes going on during my playtime? Plus, Barbie Dolls couldn’t have been a game of my country; “Barbie sounds so exotic, someone from the Caribbean”, I told myself.
In the end, I decided to let the notebook be. Ken had swooped me off my feet. My imaginary audience couldn’t wait for the next episode of the Barbie series. And then I got distracted with a book, then some music… I was doing everything BUT the assignment and I absolutely freaking enjoyed it! It was sooo much fun to do anything I wanted, to be free and rebellious!
And suddenly, there it was. The sound of the keys turning on the front door. My mom was home from work. I knew I was in trouble… And it must have been quite late because I could still hear the newsman in the background of the 20 o’ clock news broadcast coming up. I made my way slowly and quietly downstairs, ready to eat. My grandpa was entering the kitchen at the same time, which kind of helped my momentary, embarrassing inability to make eye contact go unnoticed.
We started having dinner, when the dreading question came up. “Sabrina, did you finish your homework?”. In all fairness, it was a surprising question. My mom trusted most of the times that I would have done my homework, so she BARELY ever asked. But I guess mom’s know everything, don’t they? Disappointed and embarrassed I got caught red-handed, I had no choice to come clean. With a whispering hesitating voice, I managed to say “No… I need help with an essay.”
Before I knew it, I was staring at the same white page, with light blue lines and that frustrating title: “The traditional games of my country”. Once my mom saw the title, she gave me the best idea ever: “Here’s your grandpa! Ask him!” And so I did. The interview wasn’t planned, and started off really shallow, boring and rather cold. I knew my grandpa was more interested in watching the news rather than answering my ever-ending questions about what each game was called, why was it called liked that, how it was played, what was its goal… Looking back, I was Curious Sabrina Her Majesty back then. Eventually, I could win him over with personalising my questions to him, like asking him which games he used to play and which one was his favourite game growing up. Once we were both engaged, I stopped making notes. I started writing directly and filling up the light blue lines.
I was aware that we were supposed to fill a maximum of 2 pages of the notebook and at first I was thinking of writing bigger letters to fill up the space and be done sooner. With all this beautiful, new information from another era, though, I couldn’t see myself stopping nor caring about stopping or sticking to the rules. I guess I was being creatively naughty and rebellious, yet again. I will never forget that night. In retrospect, this was the first time I can now remember of connecting with my grandpa and the ability of flow. I didn’t care how late it was, I didn’t care I was tired, I didn’t care I was 7 pages too deep. All I could care about, was the engagement, the energy, the flow, the curiosity and the ability to travel with the power of someone else’s words and stories to their own reality, to different world. In a magical way my grandpa’s stories that night were my first imagination time-travel. “That’s enough”, my mom said when she noticed that it was a wee bit too late for me. To be honest, I don’t remember writing a proper, thoughtful ending, as if I unwillingly didn’t want to put an end to it.
The next morning I handed in my assignment. I was scared to littlest ear bone of my skeleton because I knew I had written too much and I was too tired to re-read all 12 pages, that I just handed in the original work. “Most of it won’t make any sense to him anyways”, I convinced myself and exited the classroom for the scheduled break.
The days went by and I had forgotten about the essay. Honestly, I think I must have had the emotional memory of a fish as a child. Now, I do remember, I was not paying attention in class, when that same teacher called my name in class. “Sabrina”, he said. My thoughts were interrupted and I had know idea what was going on. I looked at him surprised, hoping that he hadn’t realised I was paying more attention to the unicorns and witches in my brain.
“In my 25 years of teaching”, he exclaimed, “I have given 2 As, and the last one was 10 years ago”. I was like, “You shitting me? What’s this guy expecting from a bunch of 10 year olds?”. He went on, “Today, I’m proud to give a well-deserved A once again. This written art has taken me back and I thank you for that. Sabrina, can you please come here and read your work out loud?”
In my head, I was lost. And stunned. And humbled. And weirdly calm, peaceful and confident. That’s the moment, that’s the story I know now that makes me writer.