Besides my Oma, the person who most encouraged my writing when I was a child was my year 3 teacher, Mrs Grant. She was an exchange teacher from Canada and we all grew to love her so much that it was devastating the day she left. She was so sweet that one time, when my best friend Genna and I were having a fight, she started to cry, and she couldn’t teach the class until we had made up. She was super funny too – she played a trick on us on April Fool’s Day, making us line up, thinking we were getting needles – it was terrifying and hilarious. She also cast me in my very first play – The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. ‘Santa, why are you taking our Christmas tree?’
Mrs Grant showed me how enjoyable reading could be, and she also was one of the first people to get me writing fiction. We read our stories out loud to the class – and the stories I found yesterday have chapters and cliff-hangers (including my favourite – ‘Michael Jackson and the Magic Hat’). I remember 1993 as being one of the happiest and most inspiring years of my life. And this was confirmed yesterday when I also found the diary Mrs Grant made us keep. There are so many things I’d forgotten, such as the fact that when Mrs Grant read to us, the session was called ‘Reading Like a Thinker’.
Going back through the 1993 school journal also makes me see how encouraging Mrs Grant was, not only of my school work and writing, but of my general kiddie happiness. What I can also see though, is how I constructed myself for her – some of the events in the journal I remember as being sad or confusing or scary – but I always relay them to her with enthusiasm. Or I write ‘oh well’, after something bad has happened. And it’s so interesting to see how much of your child-self still exists. The teenage diaries are a lot different, and a lot changed – but so much of my personality is still 9-year-old wanting-to-do-well and please people and be surrounded by things she loves Angela.
I wonder how different I would be, if I hadn’t had her encouragement? If she hadn’t read to us? If she hadn’t made us write stories and keep a journal?
My friends and I had a movie night yesternight – and as we’re all movie buffs (them even moreso than I) we often end up talking about pivotal film moments. We got onto Jurassic Park and I told them how I found the entry in my year 3 journal from when I saw it. We actually ended up on a big trip down memory lane and watched Aladdin, which I also found reference to in the diary today! We talked about how we didn’t get some of the Genie’s jokes when we were kids, because they were intertextual (my generation learns almost everything backwards – from reference or homage to original) and this is exactly what I had noted in my journal: ‘Dad understands it more than us because the face of the Genie and what he turn’s [sic] into are faces of comedy people from other movies’.
It seems I watched The Simpsons often that year and would tell Mrs Grant what I found funny. This would have been about season four of The Simpsons, and as most fans know – seasons four through about eight are the ‘golden era’ episodes, yes? Another cool thing about Mrs Grant is she watched them too, and wrote in my margins, or after my diary entry ‘I liked the bit where Marge was Bart’s teacher!’ If only all teachers could relate to their students like this.
1993 was also a big Michael Jackson love-year. He was touring and I watched the Dangerous concert on TV. I noted his 35th birthday in my journal, too, and how I celebrated with wizz-fizz and teeth lollies from the corner shop. It was the year he was on Oprah – how exciting that was to watch! It was the first year I watched Moonwalker and the full version of Thriller too.
This was the year when I had dreams of flying so vivid I was convinced they were real, when I imagined dinosaurs walking beside me to school, when I thought UFOs might be real, when I had secret crushes on two blonde boys in the choir (but didn’t everyone?), and – something I’ve always remembered as setting my imagination on fire – when my family visited Storyland Gardens. I wrote about the forest, the animals, the fences, the three little houses for the three little pigs, and the rusty old train track. A branch fell from a tree and hit me in the face, and I wrote, dramatically ‘It made me jump right out of my socks!’ I called the goat a ‘greedy fellow’ because he snatched the bag of pellets out of my hand and gobbled them down. Thinking about it now – I wonder what Storyland Gardens was like for my parents. No doubt the rust, weeds, decay, and animals in tiny pens looked less wondrous than they did to me, and the day was probably quite boring, from their point of view (except to see their kids happy). I never want to go there again, because I’m afraid of how different it would look – that is, if it even still exists. Being from Coffs Harbour, the monorail at the Big Banana was a similar sort of thing – magical, when you were young; disappointing, stinky and out-dated, when you get older.
Another thing about 1993 – and man I miss my parents when I read this journal – is how I didn’t ever write about wanting or needing anything. Every weekend my sister and I did something fun – we were taken somewhere, we played with the neighborhood kids in the street, we invented games, went for adventures, watched movies, and did heaps of reading. And my family were never super well-off. I’ve worked ever since I was 14, along with study. But we had an idyllic childhood – we were given the space, time and encouragement to develop our imaginations – and importantly, to have a lot of fun.
Do you guys have someone pivotal who shaped your life? Are you still your 9-year-old self, in some way? What was the most inspiring year of your life?
And Linda Grant – we kept in touch for years, but I wonder where you are now? I’d love to know how you are, and for you to know that Genna and I – and many of the other kids you taught, still talk about 3G.
1993 – a brilliant year.