Childhood as Inspiration

Lonely tree Photo by Jimmy Casey

Lonely tree Photo by Jimmy Casey

I recently purchased Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret in preparation for a future book. When I first read this famous work as a kid, I expected a book about puberty and periods. That's all anyone talked about - the period book! Like many books distilled to one fact or event, Are You There...? is more than that. In the first chapter, you meet the main character in the midst of a major transition from city to suburb, with parents who seem to be trying too hard to sell the move. Reading the book for the first time, I was a fifth grader who had attended four different elementary schools in three states. The story of a child adrift in a new place was easy for me to relate to.

Reading the book again as an adult wasn't intended to be anything more than reviewing subject matter related to my own story plans, but it's been an emotional and sometimes difficult read. I had forgotten the religious-outcast element, something that my siblings and I faced on a regular basis. Memories returned of being asked about my Sunday school by the parents of neighborhood children, followed by the ostracism directed at us by those children. In the first chapter of the book, a similar but less intense scene plays out for the main character.

I've finished the book since I started this blog entry. It ends without resolving many threads, because it's a book about a kid's life. There is no resolution. Judy Blume is an amazing writer who can perfectly execute the subtle, persistent discomfort of childhood. I've been trying to keep notes of these thoughts and feelings as I go. It's not cathartic, but it is useful material. Adults can easily forget how difficult childhood can be. The homework you hated doing because it was useless was useless. The teachers you remember belittling you or your classmates were not aberrations.

Reading a good children's book, particularly one you enjoyed as a child, brings back feelings you may no longer think about. It's important to not let those go -- they are some of the most sincere reactions you've ever experienced.