The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Prickly, determined and fierce

After starting my last post with a “tag, you’re it!” I got somewhat distracted by the joys of reading and forgot where I was going with tag :>

Where I was going was to say that last weekend I played tag with three little kids–four, five and six, I think, for the first time in at least a year.

When we first moved to Lawrence, Kansas, I got to see the sweetie little kids who’d become part my life start playing with other little kids.  It’s kind of amazing and fascinating how quickly kids learn to sort themselves into who’s up, who’s down, and who’s occupying the space you want.

(Sort of like being an author, actually.)

I got to watch lots of little kids playing at the KU family housing playground.  English was never the language of choice for the adults hanging around the playground–they talked to each other mostly in Chinese, Korean, Arabic, or something else–but the children used both English and the language of bumps, shoves, giggles, and weepiness to carve out their spaces.

As I hung out in that playground over a couple of years, I was reminded that some people seem to come into this world already determined.  Sweetie kid #1 is like that.  When she was about four, she started wanting desperately to swing from the monkey bars in the KU playground–and, in the beginning, I used to hold her legs to give her enough support to make it from one side to the other.   She kept pushing.  One day, she could actually make it across by herself.  Heady with determination and success, she kept going until she could go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in any playground.  Her palms grew callouses.  When we visited Portland, my older sister told her that her arms were going to stretch out until her feet would touch the ground.  It didn’t slow her down for a second.

Last weekend, I held her little brother’s legs as he made his way across the monkey bars.  She loved the delicious scariness of hearing me galloping up behind her in the game of tag.  He didn’t.   Some kids come into the world prickly and determined.  Some come into the world sweet.

It was pretty clear in my own family that my older sister was the sweet one.  When I mentioned to my mom that some grandchildren–not to name any names–might just be more on the prickly and determined scale, she just laughed.  “You?” she said.  “You have descendents who are prickly and determined?”  I knew what she meant.

Oh well.  Even she would agree that those traits have been essential for anyone who wants to publish a book.

In the end, things tend to run in families.

Wisps of hair.

Reading habits.

Ways of looking at the world.

What we consider important and worthwhile in life.

I think of that these days as I work in my garden in the autumn Oregon rain and remember my dad’s garden in Ethiopia and how much he loved getting his hands into the dirt.  When I created Lanie and gave her a garden, it feels like I was warming up for my life this fall, compost bin and all.

I’ve been around long enough, by now, to know the truth of the old adage that it isn’t what we say but what we do that sticks.

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