Start with grandma’s kitchen table. Rickety and splintered, wobbly in the center of a pristine kitchen. Choppy haired little girl sits on three phone books, construction paper workspace sprawled out across rough wooden surface. Crayola markers fill page after page with entire worlds in all lowercase letters but uppercase A’s because she, “hasn’t learned the little one yet.” Grandpa the publisher folds thick cardstock down the middle and staples tiny book together, swipes fallen supplies up off freshly mopped tile.
Start with the water stained journal with every funny thing her eighth grade crush ever said pencilled in carefully during passing periods and any math lesson having to do with fractions. In a tiny church school where no one knew what to do with the kid who wrote prayers about things she shouldn’t have, scribbled about her favorite book and the big tree with the rope swing and the quiet at the bottom of a swimming pool, then tossed in a line about God at the end, so the pastor had to read it out loud for everyone to hear.
Start before that. Before she could fill a notebook. Within a hide and seek game of six cousins, sprinting and rushing and sliding in too big striped socks, shouts about murder mysteries and detectives. Or within the soap opera Barbie game of the mermaid astronaut teenagers, dreaming up combinations like possibilities. In the headache pink room, loud little girls cut each other off with every shouted detail.
Start in high school. Start with a curb. Scathingly hot, greyed cement sloping into the city street. Teenagers camping for a concert, gatorade drips through sidewalk cracks towards the gutter, cooler dragged from the depths of the garage splattered with city grime. She scrawls out an identity off the older girls who share cigarettes or the blue haired drummer or her coffee smelling best friend who always has so much to say.
Start with the sled hill she slid down so fast she knocked her brother over and the bunk bed in Wisconsin she hung the stars from and and the conch shell from the lake she swore she could hear the ocean in and the piles and piles of empty composition books abandoned in her closet.
Finish with grandma’s rickety, splintered table wobbly in the pristine kitchen, where her newspaper articles are spread out so soap opera barbie cousins can read eighth grade crush quotes about sweltering love for music. Stapled construction paper book enveloping hundreds of places and marker scratched stories.