When I was a child, my best friend Howard Crampton Smith lived across the street in a house with a sunroom and a porch. We spent long, warm days riding our tricycles on “Bumpity Road” and playing “Simon Says” and “Mother May I” on the steps in front of his house. When we started Kindergarten at Border Star Elementary School, Howard and I walked together those few blocks and played together at recess.
But the best thing I remember about Howard was the day he colored his socks.
Our teacher had each student lie on a piece of craft paper on the floor while she drew around us. Then we stated to color in that outline.
It was when we arrived at the feet that Howard’s genius emerged. Instead of being true to the plain black socks he wore, he decided to make designs on his socks, wonderful, outlandish, colorful patterns and shapes so fanciful no company would or could ever manufacture such whimsy. Thrilled by the concept, I followed Howards’s lead on the right sock but then realize that both socks should look alike. Matching my fantasy sock was very difficult and quite boring. Howard did not entertain the necessity of his socks being identical. He blithely put himself in fanciful socks which didn’t look the least bit the same. They were magnificent.
When I contemplate creativity, I think of Howard and his fantastic socks. I write books I love—but I will never reach the heights he did in Kindergarten.
When I was in seventh grade at Border Star Elementary School in Kansas City, MO, my teacher had a class project: we all wrote our autobiographies. If you’re wondering, “What does a twelve-year-old have to write in an autobiography?” the answer is, not much.
Nonetheless, we were all excited about this. We typed one page, single spaced, which were all copied on something purple and, by now, nearly too pale to read. We put the thirty-six pages together and bound them. In the end, we each had a hand-bound book with the story of everyone’s families and pets and vacations. Believe it or not, many, many years later, I still have this.
The very last section of each autobiography was about our plans for the future. What did I want to be in seventh grade? I wrote, “I want to be a ballerina, author, and illustrate my own books, and, in my spare time I will write plays and act in them.”
How close did I come? I realized very soon that I’d never be a ballerina: I liked to eat and didn’t like pain, Besides, I’m not the most graceful of people. And, as much as I liked to draw, I always had trouble with noses in a frontal view. This lack of skill left my people with oddly flat faces which left out illustrator. I also learned that I’m not an actor. I’m too inhibited to become another person and show their emotion.
However, I did become an author with ten published books and I also wrote an award-winning one-act play in college. Two out of five–that’s pretty close.
What did you plan to be in the seventh grade? How close are you?