A Story of Self-Discovery through Childlike Wonder
By: Patty Ihm
If I had just kept moving forward, I would have missed so many of the little things. I am really grateful for the times that I turned around along the way, still in my tracks. It was those little things: the smallest voice, barely audible; the slightest flutter, nearly intangible, that ended up mattering the most.
Trepidation swirled in my belly as I anticipated Mrs. B’s reaction to my third-grade writing assignment. My offering, entitled “Olka Polka,” was about a purple and pink monster. I knew that what I had written was dumb. I knew my teacher would scoff at me. My cheeks flushed pink and my eyes welled with tears; Mrs. B moved in slow motion, taking time to pass back each student’s paper. Though I recall little about the passage that I had written, I haven’t forgotten how my teacher’s words lifted me up when she encouraged me to keep writing, for she had liked my story.
Years later, my high school English teacher told me that when I fell and scraped my knee, I should first write about it and then bleed.
Somewhere in time, I listened. I started writing things down. Volumes. When I was lonely, I sat in the unraveling wicker rocker in my dark room and wrote. When I was traveling, I sat on park benches among the landscape roses, watching hurried marketers carry noisette loaves and eggplants. I wrote. I wrote things that mattered and things that didn’t, things that I read over again, and things that I could not interpret or understand. I wrote about music and love and hope and my own disappointments.
As the days filled up, I would not always remember to pull out my notebook. When I did, the pages told of home-keeping, marriage, and babies; cookie jar collecting and coffee shops; adoption, foster parenting, and the realization that what I may have wished for was not always what I needed. I wrote through the hard stuff: the sickness, the fear, the grief, the uncertainty, the hope, the trials, and the joy.
The path led to a blog, where I processed my feelings and emotions by writing about mental illness, fairy flowers, broody chickens, and children turning to teenagers. Soon there was a published memoir and more writing.
Collective inspiration from many unique experiences took meaning in the form of a fictional tale as I started writing my novel, Goldie Bird, in the back seat of our packed van on a family trip to Florida. A story of a young girl who learns about herself through her encounters with others, Goldie Bird unfolded and evolved over nearly three years, with time stolen amid therapy appointments, night wakings, baseball games, and farm chores.
I hadn’t intended all the twists and turns in the story; as I sat down to write, the characters seemed to introduce themselves through the keyboard. Parts of the story are distant reminders of some of the little things that brought me to where I am today. As Goldie climbs high into a tree to hide from certain scolding, I recall the day that our family searched for hours to find my cousin who had been watching from his perch in the great oak. Characteristics of children that I have known through the years reflect Rosa, Goldie’s acquaintance, who struggles to communicate and prefers the company of birds to people her age. Sisters Goldie and Elise share a connection that I have known only through my relationship with my sister.
I’m not sure I ever felt like I was writing a story. Rather, I was transcribing events as they occurred before me. Looking back at this writing, though it was not my intention, I can see much of myself in Goldie. Her adventures, though imagined, are familiar. The story is relatable beyond a middle-grade audience; there is a bit of Goldie in all of us.
The path has led me through brambles and thickets. There have been clearings, discoveries, and even a bit of magic etched into my stories as a polka-dotted monster, a young girl named Goldie, and plenty of others in between. As the road beckons ahead, I look forward to more listening, more writing, and more looking back to find meaning and magic in all directions.
Read more about Patty here.
Follow Patty’s Blog here.
Purchase Patt’s Memoir, Isn’t That Enough? here.
Goldie Bird is set to be released in 2022.