We recently put our house on the market. Our real estate agent, Amy Berglund, gifted us with complimentary cleaning services. On the day of the big clean, Isabella and her partner arrived at our house promptly at 8:30am. Both girls were friendly and professional. I had never used maid services so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be doing. I packed moving boxes, staged the rooms, and wrote on my computer in-between chores. Later in the afternoon Isabella asked me, “Are you a writer?”
It was a new experience to be asked if I was a writer. I had spent a decade identifying myself by saying, “I worked fulltime in Events & Catering but I try to write on the side.” Looking back now, I see the error in my ways. I had unknowingly decided that claiming to be a writer meant I had to earn a paycheck for my words.
All writers who write should consider themselves writers. This includes me. I responded eagerly, “Yes. Yes I am.”
Isabella explained that her thirteen-year-old daughter, Pastora, wanted to be a writer but she didn’t have any resources at school. I imagined her daughter being an avid reader the way I had been at that age. I had written dozens of short stories as extra credit for my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Fletcher. I talked about the youth programs and Writerships that were available at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. I mentioned a few coupons I had seen advertised on their weekly newsletter about youth courses being discounted. There was a slight language barrier between us, so I didn’t know if she was fully understanding what I was trying to convey.
I asked Isabella, “Would Pastora want to connect with me on FaceBook?” She said that she didn’t let her daughter have a FaceBook account or email address. She asked if Pastora could call me directly and ask for some advice. I said, “Of course she can!” I was tickled to think that I was going to talk to a young girl about pursuing her dream. I never imagined I could help anyone out in this way.
About a week later I saw Isabella’s number pop up on my cell phone. I was driving to volunteer at the Eating Disorder Foundation, but I had about a half hour to spare. I heard Pastora’s timid voice on the other end of the line.
“Hi, is this Whitney?”
“It is! Is this Pastora?”
“Yes mam” How adorable
“So your mom tells me you like to write. What do you like to write?”
“I like to make up my own stories” My heart melted.
We started off by chatting about Lighthouse youth programs but it didn’t feel like that was going to be a viable option for her. I silently scolded myself for not starting off smaller. I wanted her to know that she could write as long as she had a pen in her hand and a desire to put words to a page.
We talked about her school clubs, her English teacher, and her friends who also enjoyed writing fictional stories. I talked to her about going to school writing and eventually being able to write as a profession. She had never thought about long-term writing goals and she was fascinated at the possibility of making it her career. I talked to her about forming a writers circle of her own, a club of sorts.
This is when she came alive on the call. “I love that idea!” I loved it too. I wanted her to learn how to share her work with pride and how critiquing other people’s work could better her own writing. Towards the end of the conversation Pastora said she would be asking her 3 girlfriends if they wanted to stay after school and write one day a week. I told she could even host slumber parties with the focus being on writing. She loved that idea too.
Right before we hung up I realized it was over and I was finished helping this creative young teen. I felt a twinge of sadness. It had been the sweetest conversation, a talk that I wish I could have had as a kid. It brings tears to my eyes to recall Pastora’s innocence during that phone call. Isabella is an amazing mom. She had lovingly jumped at the chance to connect the dots for her daughter. I felt her motherly love, warm yet determined, fill up my heart.
“Pastora, do you mind if I call you this time next week around the same time? I want to check in and see how you’re doing, to see how it’s going with your friends.”
“I would just love that. I’d really like to call you and tell you how it’s going.”
“So would I, kiddo!”
My cup runneth over.