Friday, January 13, 2006

the first day

In twelve days, I will be 28. I wanted to write something, in celebration of that, in the style of what the poet Emily Lloyd wrote for the twelve days of Christmas (a wonderful piece).

I give to you twelve presents for the twelve days before I am older, before I am changed, before my time. Twelve gifts that I was given, twelve gifts that mean more to me than the world, that I would give to you if I could.

the first day: the alphabet

My mother gives me the alphabet before my fourth birthday. She is a special education reading teacher, and tries out some of her experimental methods on me; most notably, she fills a pan with sugar and has me trace the alphabet in the grains. She does each letter for me, melds my hand around hers, then has me try. When I get a letter right, I get to lick the sugar from my finger. It is the red pan she bakes peanut butter cookies in. The sugar is white. The pan is red. This is one of my first memories.

My parents read at least one book to me every single night before bed, sometimes two or three. For show and tell the first week of kindergarten, I will read a book to the class.

In nine years, I’ll publish my first story, in the local newspaper Halloween short story contest. In ten years, I’ll get in trouble for reading Clan of the Cave Bears in Pre-Algebra. In twelve, I’ll attend my first summer writers’ workshop. In thirteen, I’ll publish my first poem in a “real” magazine. In fourteen, I’ll find my teacher. In nineteen, my chapbook of poems will be published. In twenty-one, I’ll have an MFA in poetry. In twenty-two, I’ll have my first job teaching writing. In twenty-four years, I’ll finish writing a novel.

But first, there is this book, this book I read by myself aloud to an audience of my wiggling classmates. I think it is about monsters. I remember sitting on a stool. I remember being very nervous, but I get all the words. My teacher’s name is Miss Lindsey, and when I finish, I close the book, and all the other kindergarteners come running up to me, screaming, I want to be next! I want to be next! I want to read! I want to read!.

This is one of the greatest gifts I was ever given, a gift that has shaped my life, that made my life, that saves my life again and again, and I hope one day I am able to give it back.