Photo courtesy of Creative Commons
We were so excited. Mom called upstairs to us,“Thea Tula is here!”
We loved going to our aunt’s house. I’d run to her TV room first thing. There in a tall bookcase, I’d find my favorite, A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Comfy on her brown rocker, I’d crawl into my favorite book for hours. One by one, the poems would seep into my brain.
Her house was always quiet. There would be no yelling. No one would be hit. I was safe there. Safe to let my imagination take me wherever it wanted.
The following week at school, my 5th grade teacher announced, “There’s going to be a writing contest.”
My ears perked up.
My favorite thing in the world was writing.
“You can write about any topic you like,” Mrs. Farnsworth said. “And the two winners will read their papers on the radio.
We listened to WBEZ radio each week in class. And now, a couple of us would actually be on the program? Wow.
Smiles showed up on the faces around me. Whispers circulated the room. We had one week to write.
My story had to be a good one. I searched my 10-year-old mind.
If I just relax, my story will come out. But would it be good enough to win?
And then it happened. While staring at the blank paper, my story tiptoed out of my mind. I almost couldn’t write fast enough. With head down, I guided the words where they should go.
And so, I told the story about my shadow. And when I was done, I smiled big.
Placing my paper on the teacher’s desk I sighed.
Now I just had to wait.
A couple days later, Mrs. Farnsworth told us to take our seats. “It’s time to announce the winners,” she stated.
We started shushing each other.
“For poetry, the winner is Barbara Edgecomb, for her poem, Babies are Fun.”
It was easy to clap for Barbara. She was one of my friends.
“And the winner of the essay is…”
I imagined how it would feel to win. To smile like Barbara was smiling right now.
“The winner is Anne Gollias, for her essay, My Shadow.”
Walking up to get my paper, my legs turned to jello.
So this is what it feels like to win.
A couple days later I woke up excited. It was the day we’d go downtown.
I combed my hair till it looked just right. Butterflies danced in my stomach.
It would be a special day, just me and mom going downtown. I already felt special.
As our el train rounded the curve close to a tall building, I closed my eyes tight. It always looked like we were going to hit the wall.
I reached into the white paper bag, pulling out some block chocolate. Mom had picked it up at Goldblatt’s department store before we got on the el.
“Don’t get any on your dress,” she warned. After a short walk, we were at the radio station.
Barbara sat by a big microphone. A red light flashed on and off. She looked nervous as she started,
“Babies are fun.
Each and every one.
From their cute little faces
To their tiny shoe laces.”
She recited it once more. Then they looked over at me.
My heart started beating fast. I took a deep breath and sat down by the big microphone. I waited for their signal to begin. And slowly, I read My Shadow.
I was careful as could be, making sure I said each word clearly. And finally, I got to the end of my story; the best part. The part where I let everyone know my shadow was not a shadow at all. It was my little brother Steve, who followed me everywhere.
People clapped, just like they did for Barbara. Mom’s smile made me warm inside.
When we got home, I noticed a small white box with a ribbon on it, sitting on our dining room table.
“It’s for you,” mom smiled.
Inside, tucked in white tissue paper, sat the most beautiful corsage in the world. Three pretty flowers attached to a yellow satin ribbon.
Mom pinned it on me right away. I never wanted to take it off.
The card read,
We are so proud of you.
Love, Aunt Helen and Uncle Pete.
Yes, it was a special day. But not because I got to be on the radio.
Not even because I got my first corsage ever.
No. It was special because, it was the day I knew I was a writer.