Words & More Words

This Romance Writer’s Life…

Monthly Blog - Ernie in the Sandbox...My Very First Story

I have this memory from childhood.

When I was about four or five years old, my parents had brought me to the playground by our house.

This was a treat, because as I've mentioned before, my mom had agoraphobia. Rarely, did we go out in the world where I would have the opportunity to socialize with other children. This might explain why I don't mind the solitude of being a writer. I was always good at playing by myself.

As other kids swung on swings, and slid down slides, I stuck to less adventurous equipment like the little horse on a spring. I watched as boys and girls made sandcastles and buried toys in the playground's sandbox.

We didn't bring toys with us to the playground, or anywhere for that matter. I imagine it was because my mom didn't want me to lose something that might have been important to me. I had a strong affinity with my stuffed animals (still do, really). Also, I didn't like other kids touching my stuff.

BTW, still don't like it. If I see someone manhandling, say, a perfectly good book and breaking the spine while flipping through it, or if my hubby scribbles on a magazine I haven't read yet, I lose my mind because now it's ruined! LOL.

As the kids vacated the sandbox to go play elsewhere, I noticed a doll had been left behind.

It wasn't just any doll, it was an Ernie puppet from Sesame Street. Identical to the Ernie puppet I had at home. I remember wondering how Ernie had gotten there, who he belonged to. It plagued me to think that he was being forgotten. That some kid would go home and cry themselves to sleep that night because they were negligent and Ernie was lost to them forever. I actually cried all the way home. Thanks to the story I'd created in my head, I became very distraught over Ernie being abandoned.

This narrative is probably the earliest evidence of my storytelling nature. I had a wild imagination when I played. I used to pretend I was a twin. My grandmother would play along asking if I was the "good" twin, when I'd appear to her in a different shirt from the one I'd had on earlier. I had an imaginary friend, my stuffed animals had feelings and thoughts and emotions.

It wasn't until I started reading novels, that my interest in putting my stories to paper came to fruition.

One of the first novels I read that inspired me to write was "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton. I had read many books before that one, but at 13, I was a bundle of hormones. I had devoured the book, and not long after, the movie came out. Seeing all those characters on the screen--hot boys in leather jackets (remember, I was 13, and Rob Lowe and hormones!)--I wanted to live in their world. I went right home after the movie, opened my new spiral notebook and wrote a different version the story. A version where the main character was the Curtis boys' tough sister, and her dilemma was picking which boy she liked the most.

I filled that notebook up with scenes, calling my girlfriend to read her what I had written. To talk to her about my ideas. And, to swoon over those cute boys.

Years later, that love for cute boys had led me to writing in the romance genre. It had always been just a hobby, until about five or six years ago, when I had finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up...a writer! Even though I had been doing just that all along.

Somewhat recently, I found my Ernie puppet in my parent's attic. It was missing a hand and all of its hair. My hubby took me to a vintage toy store in our neighborhood and bought me a used one. It was in almost pristine condition. I kept them both, because I still feel original beat-up Ernie has value. At least, in my heart he does.

Now, forty years later, when I drive by that same playground, I reminisce about that day and wonder if that other Ernie ever made it home. And, if he didn't, what happened to him?

I bet there's a story there!

Kelly DuffComment