Two days before we left on our trip, Jack and I had the writing date he’d proposed just before Christmas.
We walked down to the coffee shop where I write on Friday afternoons. I bought two steamed milks, plain for me, with vanilla for him. We sat at my usual table by the window. He pulled out his notebook. I pulled out my laptop.
I wasn’t sure how well this was going to work, honestly. He’s eight. A very active eight. This is the boy who climbs the windows and door frames, who prefers running to walking, especially in the house, and who delights in wrestling, wrangling, and otherwise harassing his siblings. (And no, even his 18-month-old brothers are not exempt: they are regularly subjected to fake punches on the back, arm, or even in the face.) He fidgets with his clothes or his lip when he’s reading to himself. He fidgets with my clothes or his lip when I’m reading to him. He seems all but incapable of sitting still.
So I was skeptical about my getting any work done at all. But I managed to write a whole host of emails and even work on a blog post.
While my fingers flitted over my keyboard, Jack sat quietly across from me. He sat there for more than two hours. Mostly he stared out the window, but he did manage to write almost a whole page.
As we were walking home in the damp dark of a January evening, he took hold of my gloved hand. “That was fun,” he said. “Can we do it again when we get home from Alabama?”
I squeezed his hand. “It was fun, wasn’t it? And of course we can do it again.”
The rest of the way home, we talked about his book, brainstorming possible dangers for John and Sara as they travel to the chamber of mysteries.
Much to my surprise, Jack worked on his book while we were in Alabama, writing part of the scene where John and Sara meet the obligatory sage who points them in the direction of the chamber of mysteries and gives them the obligatory gift for use in their darkest hour. My son has a keen understanding of the conventions of fantasy stories.
But despite the formulaic nature of this story – he is only eight, after all – he has moments of prose that blow me away.
Just after the obligatory gift scene, Jack wrote one of the best chapter endings ever: as the sage sends John and Sara on their way, he warns them, “The midnight dangers await you if you do not reach the moon cave before nightfall.”
When he read that to me, my eyes widened. You see, I started writing stories when I was six. By the time I was eight, I had progressed from “Candyland in Trouble” – a three-page story about the bullied Candlylanders and their quest to run a frizzy-haired giant out of town – to the eight-page “What Rabbits Do at Night.” They play baseball. (Duh. What else would they do?) Luckily, I ran out of steam after four excruciating innings of singles, doubles, triples, and homeruns, and I ended the story before they could play all nine innings. Thank God.
Let’s just say that midnight dangers, moon caves, and nightfall were completely foreign ideas to me. Even now, I’m not sure I would have come up with the first two. No wonder my eyes went wide.
I think for our next writing date, I’m going to pick Jack’s brain, see where he comes up with stuff like that, and if he’s got any more like it. Then I’m going to steal it.
Writer-mama turned word-thief: now there’s a midnight danger.