Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works. – Virginia Woolf
I am taking a writing class. It is a six week, creative nonfiction class on personal essay. Here is a short description of personal essay from my class syllabus:
In his introduction to the definitive anthology on the subject, The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, essayist Phillip Lopate writes, the personal essay “should certainly be celebrated, because it is one of the most approachable and diverting types of literature we possess. The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy…. ” He goes on to explain, “At the core of the personal essay is the supposition that there is a certain unity to human experience.”
My main purpose of taking this class is to better my writing skills for my blog. So much of what I share on Fibromyalgia Haven is my personal experience of living with FIbromyalgia, and I want to continue to do so in a manner that you can relate to and that you will enjoy to read.
So my first assignment was this: “Choose a “first” in your life—a first kiss, a first communion, a first parking ticket, a first marriage, etc.—and write up to 500 words describing what happened and how you felt about it at the time it was happening.”
I chose to write about one of my favorite childhood memories; the first time I saw snow. I am sharing it with you as a way to document my growth as a writer and also because this is my happy place so I want to share a happy memory with you. This is an early draft of an idea I plan to eventually expand into a long essay.
My mom parked the car in front of the café and I could barely wait to jump out. It had taken us two days to drive the 16 hours from Huntington Beach, California to Soda Springs, Idaho. Sixteen hours of carsickness and arguing with my sister over the front seat. It was a lot for a five year old to endure. I could see my dad through the big paned windows of the café and my excitement grew. Two months prior he had come to Soda Springs by himself to find a job and a place for us to live. He was sitting in a booth smiling at us, and I could not wait to run to him for one of his fierce bear hugs. I had missed him very much.
As I opened the car door I was immediately thankful for the new red fur coat my mom had bought me. It was thick, bulky and unfamiliar, and it caused me to move awkwardly as I got out of the car. The air was cold and brisk on my face, forcefully demanding my attention. My sister ran past me and raced into the café, anxious to be reunited with our dad, but I just stood there on the sidewalk disoriented.
My nostrils hurt with each inhale. My hands and fingers began to sting. It was cold, REALLY COLD. Then just as quickly, the cold was eclipsed by something even more foreign – a soft and gentle feeling of wetness brushing against my face. I paused there, confused and mesmerized.
I stood on the sidewalk with my arms out to my sides and watched as giant white flakes floated down from the sky and landed gently on my extended arms. So beautiful! What is this? The contrast of the white flakes against my red coat gave me the impression that the flakes were landing only on me and nowhere else. It was pure joy! I remember standing on the sidewalk, looking at my outstretched arms and spinning slowly. What was this beautiful gift that was welcoming me? It was a pure moment with no fears or uncertainty, just bliss.
And then I heard my mom laugh and the trance broke. She was standing with her hand on the door to the café laughing at me. It was nice to hear her laugh again. It had been a while. “It’s called snow silly,” she said. “I told you we were moving to a place where it snowed.” The day my mom told me we were moving to a place where it snowed, it meant nothing to me. Two months later as I stood there watching the flakes land and disappear over and over again, I knew my life was going to be different. I ran to my mom and took her hand. As we entered the café and our new life, I looked back at the snow with wonder and an expectancy of the new discoveries that lay ahead.