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Every Day


My parents are redoing the attic, building it into a hideaway space that they think will be a good spot to hang out. An extra room for writing, for reading, for looking out the window directly into the robins' nest in the hemlock.

They're running out of rooms to renovate. That's basically what it comes down to.

My mother kept everything that I wrote from the ages of 6 until 18 in a series of plastic tubs and cardboard file boxes. Distributed in no apparent order across 20 of these assorted containers, I found composition notebooks from each grade from second through eighth that served as daily journals.

I don't remember writing in these things. I don't remember anyone forcing me. There are prompts stapled into the pages for each day. The handwriting changes across the years. The entries vary in length. In most cases they describe the basics of the day: how many hours I spent playing tennis; what I had to do at school.

But as I fell deeper into the past, I think I mostly sensed a kind of weird mixture of relief and -- maybe this is overdoing it -- gratitude. Relief that there proves to be evidence that I wrote every day throughout much of my life. That the habit I keep claiming to everyone that I've always had, I have -- well -- always had. Almost literally from the moment I knew how to write multiple sentences in a row, I did. And I did it with more regularity than at any point in my life.

Gratitude?

Because the books are there. Because I don't have to wonder if this sensation that I've always wanted to make something out of language isn't fabricated. I'm grateful that I have the proof. That I can see the illustrations from second grade Star Trek fan fiction. That I see the lists of crushes, the current events (a paragraph or so on TWA flight 800 and a few sentences on Kerri Strugg winning Olympic gold).

I have a consistently hard time spelling the word "minutes," rendering it from the ages of 7 through 10 mostly as "minuets." Gratitude because I had teachers who cajoled us all into writing daily, but also because my mom kept everything. Every. Thing. Planners, scribbles, spelling tests, report cards, my first grade Trapper Keeper.

It's all there with my first copy of The Little Engine that Could and an unhealthy number of books about trains. I guess I also feel a little abashed about it. How could it be that a ten year old version of me had more discipline and much more of a natural-seeming writerly instinct than I do? There's no such thing as writer's block in any of these pages. Only words. The evolution of expression from the simplest of sentences -- "Jesse came to my house" -- to the first stabs at assertions of depth, of deeply-felt considerations about the world. There are no disciplinary lines or borders. Everything seems continguous. Science, math, fiction, daily observations. They're all together in these single collections.

It restores something to know that I can still see them.