62: The Write Feeling

62: The Write Feeling

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

The Write Feeling

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

~William Wordsworth

As a military brat, I moved a lot. I mostly went to school with other kids whose parents were also in the military, so I had an instant family. But when my dad retired from the Marines after twenty years of service, I found myself attending a civilian school with twelve-year-olds who did not understand about deployment, PX, commissary trips, and making friends instantly because we were all in the same boat. Suddenly, I was a new sixth grade student in a small town in Georgia, where we had settled in to help my mother’s father.

I was a stranger in a strange land. Everyone in my class had grown up together, were cousins or other relations, and they had no room to spare for an outcast such as myself. I wore different clothes, had different thoughts, and spoke with an accent (so they said). I cried for the first few weeks of school. I had no friends, no activities, and no promise of a bright future.

To cope with it all, I began writing in my diary every day — stories of adventure, of old friends, of feelings that I could not speak. I wrote as if my life depended on it, as if the very next breath I took could not happen unless I wrote down words. I sat under trees at recess and wrote while other kids talked about me and played games, often pointing at me and laughing.

One day, my teacher, Mrs. Bush, came to me and asked what it was I did in that book. I didn’t tell her about the adventures of my characters, all strong girls who roamed the world helping those in need. I didn’t dare tell her about the pages that were wet from my tears. I hid the fact that sometimes I wrote about her students who made snide remarks to me and how it made me feel all alone in the world. But I did tell her I enjoyed writing and preferred writing to playing.

She smiled at me and walked away.

About three weeks later, Mrs. Bush gave us a writing assignment. It was connected to a history lesson somehow, but I can’t remember how. All I know is that I was excited about it, thrilled that I could now participate in something I knew I excelled in.

That night I worked and worked on the essay. I wrote with great passion. It was my one chance to feel important and accepted by the class.

A few days after handing in my report, Mrs. Bush called me up to the front of the classroom.

I stood before thirty pairs of eyes looking at me, my long brown hair, my freckled face, my crooked teeth and I worried. Was I in trouble? Did I do something wrong?

Mrs. Bush gathered her stack of papers and told the class how much she appreciated all the work that went into the essays and that everyone had done a great job. But, she said, one student stood out as an excellent writer, one with imagination, creativity, and word mastery. That student was me!

The class clapped politely and Mrs. Bush handed me my paper, with the following remarks on it: “Malinda, you are an excellent writer. Please keep on writing and share your gift of writing with the world. I am proud of you and glad you are in my class.”

Mrs. Bush helped me feel a sense of belonging, a place of purpose, and a way to survive a transition in life that was pivotal. She helped me gain confidence in myself that stayed with me well beyond sixth grade.

~Malinda Dunlap Fillingim

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