When I think of writing, stories always filled my pen.
By 5th grade, my teacher Mrs. Brunmeier told me my stories were too avant garde for class distribution. In 8th grade, I wrote the definitive, imaginative story of our class in a final report format. In high school, I became the editor of the paper and won a first-place award in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s contest for writing, an expose of the National Honor Society. And the list goes on.
But the stories I remember best were the ones I wrote with my friend Donna.
As high school students at all-girls St. Joseph’s Academy (now Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, www.notredameacademy.com), we yearned for life experiences yet to come. We dreamed of prom dates and life successes far into the future. We wondered about the diminishing quantity of nuns who taught us and what would happen to their order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, as more lay teachers entered the fray. We imagined life in big cities and created imaginary all-knowing and all-powerful alter-egos while suffering through the realities of study hall.
For all those things that didn’t yet exist, we’d pen hand-written stories instead of dissecting frogs in biology class to make these lofty dreams come true. Of course, we’d write each other as main characters and every wish, however small, would come true. Oh, there would be conflict but ultimately we’d emerge the victors.
When Donna had a crush on J, I created a lengthy narrative for her full-bodied hair flowing in the wind, her wily charms on fire, and her witticisms dazzling a high school party crowd. J could only hope but to fall prey to her charms. Twenty pages later, Donna would have her man.
A week later she’d hold the pen, my success held in limbo by her imagination. Would I crush an opponent or merely lob an ace every serve in a tennis game? It mattered not. We would persevere and win. We’d howl in delight, knowing we’d always be the heroines of our own stories.
Donna moved to New York. I moved to Chicago. When I’d least expect it, a hand-written note would appear in my mail, continuing my high school story line. No explanation needed. It spurred me to continue her tale, jetting her from country to country, adventure to adventure.
When I found an old letter buried in a tangle of papers the other day, I quickly picked up my pen ready to resume the quest. Donna died of colon cancer several years back. Silly good writing had put her in a multi-million dollar home, lavished her with furs and jewels, and made her insanely happy. She would have been pleased.