My first experience of the requisite school torment of Show ‘n Tell taught me that you have to have something to show. I didn’t. I had witnessed the event and told my class of First Graders everything I had seen. They thought I was making it up. When my teacher told my parents, she said I had a vivid imagination. My parents thought I was lying – telling tales.
Whether that event precipitated my penchant for writing, I cannot attest. I believe I already had such an inclination: I have a distinct memory of telling my father stories before I was four years old. I also told stories to my younger sister throughout our turbulent childhood. I began the writing process at the age of ten – my first written effort told the story of an ugly giant. My older brother was keeping us entertained with his stories of elves and I kept myself entertained with silent storytelling (it was all in my head, as any sane person will say) about giants and fairies, accompanied by digging around in the dirt making castles.
As my teenage years arrived, I combined drawing my characters – especially the gowns and day dresses of my heroines – with more silent storytelling. The drawings have been lost in all the moves – kindling no doubt, but the stories remained. Several of my girl friends had similar inclinations and the stories became spoken exchanges, each of us becoming characters in one another’s adolescent fantasies.
From my Show ‘n Tell experience, I learned that people don’t believe what they haven’t seen or experienced for themselves. No matter how often or emphatically you tell someone, unless they have a sensual, personal experience, they dismiss your knowledge.
I did see a fox in Golden Gate Park. I was proved truthful by a local reporter who had film footage of the ruddy creature – but this was a decade after my initial sighting. My family still insisted I had imagined my fox.
Does that make me a fantasist or a visionary?