Late on a Saturday afternoon, shortly before the end of my 8th grade year, I sat alone in my room, scribbling in a diary my mama had just given me. It’s funny, because it was singularly the most important day in my whole life, and I don’t remember which Saturday it was, or even whether it was in May or in June. I could guess at it, but what’s the point?
I’d just got my first sign, which was why my mama bought me the diary. That might be a strange reason, I know, but it’s why. As important as that was to me then – my first sign, not Mama being strange – it wasn’t why that Saturday was so important. It was important because that was the day I began writing.
I was thirteen and a half, because halves were important then. I remember clearly how I sat in my upstairs bedroom, looking out across the fields of Jessup’s Seed Farm with that little pink book clutched tightly in my hands. My heart was pounding so furiously, my bedroom was a blur and there were little spots swimming all over the summer sky outside. I finally composed myself enough to unlock, lock, and unlock again, the gaudy silver buckle on my new treasure. I spread open her cover in admiration of the pretty pink and green ink that ruled her pages. I wanted to tell her all about the crazy hallucinations I kept having all the time. I needed to tell someone.
“You’re name’s Sarah,” I said. And then I stared at Sarah for a full ten minutes, before writing the most brilliant words I’d ever written.
Okay, so they were the only words I’d ever written that weren’t beneath a heading that read: Anne Schilde, Date, Subject, Period, Teacher. But they were brilliant; sufficient cause for me to stare in awe for another full ten minutes before I crossed them out again, and wrote:
Dear Sarah,Once upon a time
It wasn’t the most original beginning to a story, but remember I was thirteen and a half, and it was a beginning, to which I would later come along and add:
Dear Sarah, THE STUBBORN FLOWER
Once upon a time
The whole entry went something like this:
Once upon a time a seed blew into a crack in a rock where dirt and dust from the wind had collected over time. And after a light rain, she sprouted to become a beautiful flower, but she quickly outgrew her tiny bit of dirt and began to wither and die.
Every day she struggled near death, but she refused to give up hope and miraculously little coincidences kept keeping her alive.
A beetle digging a hole above the rock, a bird nearby scratching to try to catch little beetles. Little by little, more dirt fell in the crack. The morning dew and a little extra splash of water here and there give her just enough to drink. Eventually, her roots got stronger because of all her hardship and began to make the crack in the rock deeper.
Finally they pushed far enough down to find that the rock had been sitting above rich, moist soil all along.
Her roots grew and she flourished into a beautiful flower once again.
Jessica Warren was my best friend since kindergarten. We’d grown apart, separated by tragedy when her father died in 6th grade. Three years later, tragedy brought us back together when her mother died and I wrote a column in memoriam for our school newspaper.
I was writing an entry in Sarah around that time about a boy named Andy I had a crush on in school. The diary was nearly full and I was going to need another to finish all I wanted to write about him! A knock came at the door downstairs. I heard Mama answer it and then Jessi’s voice. I closed the cover excitedly, and raced down to greet her.
In short time, we were back up in my room, door closed, and our voices hushed to whispers and giggles. I’d quickly forgotten about Sarah. I forget now what drew my attention away, something I wanted to show Jessi. When I turned around again, my entire body turned to shame. Jessi had picked up Sarah and was reading her pages!
“You can’t!” I shrieked.
I rushed at her, trying to take the diary away, but she’s always been bigger than I am. She just leaned away, held Sarah out where I couldn’t reach and began reading aloud, louder and louder, knowing if my parents heard, all Hell would rain down on my head.
“Every day she struggled near death,” Jessi read, “but she refused to give up hope…”
I collapsed on my bed next to her in tears and she stopped reading.
“Shit Flower, why are you crying?” she whispered again. “This is good. I wanna read it! Is the whole thing stories?”
“You got boys in here?”
I’d just started writing about Andy. My eyes went wide. I couldn’t stop them.
Jessi grinned, pulled the diary back within reach, and started flipping through the pages again. I finally snatched it from her hands. She just laughed. I think she was expecting to find dirty boy secrets in there in the first place, but that wasn’t what I wrote, not mostly anyway.
“Come on,” she begged. “I’ll read it to you and you can stop me whenever you want.”
That was the second most important day of my life, and all I can tell you is it wasn’t a Saturday.
I never had any support from my parents. Daddy did everything he could to prevent me from writing, and Mama mostly said and did whatever would avoid conflict with him like a mouse in a snake cage. My parents were all I had, all I had except Jessi. I’d been writing in secret for nearly a year, fearful every minute I wrote that my daddy would find out. When Jessi read my diary, she became the most important support I ever had.
© 2014 Anne Schilde