In 2009 I started a blog called 26-Minute Memoir and started publishing 26-Minute Memoirs--stories that describe the essence of your life written in 26 minutes–from students, friends, Facebook and blog followers. In my book Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too), I encourage readers to write their own 26-Minute Memoir and send it to me, and they have! Over the next few weeks, I will be posting these writings. Below you’ll find Kaela Garvin’s 26-Minute Memoir. Please feel free to write one of your own. You can find instructions and links to other 26-Minute Memoirs here: https://writingismydrink.com/26-minutes/.
Kaela Garvin’s 26-Minute Memoir
I first started a diary when I was six years old.
It was Christmas. The diary, a gift from my grandmother, was seafoam green with heavy white pages and a watercolor teddy bear on the front. The previous night, I had woken up in the early hours of the morning– the light was blue and dusky, or so it looked from my top bunk. I needed to use the bathroom, and badly, but was afraid Santa would see me and thus leave his job unfinished. So I waited, watching it grow lighter through the window to my backyard, until I could wait no longer. And thus, among the first sentences I penned in my first diary is “I pead in my pants.”
They weren’t pants, really; I remember exactly the getup I was sporting–a red plush zip-up pajama robe with ruffled white ribbon trim. I remember because it looked like a Santa robe, but for girls.
Two years later, when my brothers and I were playing hide and seek, I found a curious roll of wrapping paper. I was ensconced in our laundry closet. Our family room, really a converted garage, featured washing machine-sized wooden closets with just enough extra room for one child atop the device. Perched there, I saw a bin filled with all kinds of wrapping paper– birthday, Elmo, and one roll of red wrapping paper with vintage, Coca-Cola style Santa Clauses printed on it. Every year since I could remember, our gifts from Santa had come in this wrapping paper. I felt my face get hot and my heart start to quicken. I called my middle brother, Jackie, then six years old, to see the discovery. We both knew what it meant–we had been duped. Years of writing to Santa, mailing the letters, attempting to be good– down the drain. The cookies we’d left him? He hadn’t gotten them. The carrots we’d left out? Someone other than Rudolph had chomped on them.
I remember one time my brother had a Batman-themed birthday party in the backyard. My parents built an entire Gotham City out of discarded refrigerator boxes, and our two uncles pretended to be the Joker and the Riddler, fugitives of crime. We, the party guests, were in charge of finding and apprehending them. As I recall, one had hidden in the shower. We moved from that house when I was eleven years old, just entering adolescence, to a slightly larger house just a few blocks away. I remember, prior to our move, Mom stopped into neighborhood Open Houses quite frequently “just to look around.” My brothers and I scootered along on our Razors behind our parents one Sunday to see the whitewashed, peak-roofed house that we didn’t know was to become our home. We were devastated when they told us. We just planted that apple tree in the front yard, we wailed, and we’ll never get to have the apples. My parents rented out that house, installing a plush new carpet in the downstairs family room, powder blue. We walked barefoot on it before the new tenants moved in. It was nicer than anything we’d had when we lived there.
I never knew what I wanted the rest of my life to look like. That’s not true– I did know what I wanted it to look like, but I dreamed too big. I dreamed so big that I find my current life at twenty-three a sad mess of unfulfilled dreams. I thought I’d be an actress. I thought I’d be on Broadway. I had no concept of the actuality of things, of how hard it is to make rent and support a different lifestyle, so I dreamed as big as I could. And even now, even when I don’t want those things anymore, I am lost. Even my current dreams are too big. I want a washing machine in my house, and a dishwasher. I want a dog or a kitten and someone to share him with. I want to change the world, but I never want to get out of bed.