Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Harvard days

I love to write, but haven't done so in so many years until lately. Now, it seems I spend all my time writing or conjuring up what I'm going to write next. It's so much fun and who knew that I'd come back to Texas to do it.

You see, I started my writing career in Texas back in fourth grade at Good Shepherd School in Garland. I even got my bachelor's in English at University of Texas at Dallas after a three-year stint at Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. I did post-graduate work in creative writing at University of Colorado in Boulder and of all the craziest places Harvard in 1987 while I was married with a six-year old.

I had taken my daughter to the dentist to get her teeth cleaned and while waiting in the reception area I was looking through some of my trade journals when I saw an ad/blurb about Harvard's program on creative writing. I was 30 years old and itching for new experiences, so I thought that just sending off for the application would be just the experience I was looking for. Then when it arrived, I decided to fill it out and mail it in because that would just add to the excitement in my rather mundane life, but I kept telling myself that there was no way they'd let me in. And surely, there was no way I'd go. Just no way. I ran my husband's practice and I had a young daughter at home. No way would I ever be able to get away. Never.

And then the acceptance letter arrived.

And then I couldn't stop imagining what it would be like to spend an entire semester on the east coast writing without having to do anything else. It was so decadent. What was once an impossibility became something so tantalizing that I had to make it happen. I called my mother. I knew there was no way she'd turn down the opportunity to have bragging rights about her daughter being a Harvard student, so she jumped at the chance to take care of my daughter and husband while I was away. The only other person to tell was the husband. I arranged with our employees the work schedule that would cover my hours and showed them how to keep up with the paperwork that I had been doing. With everything in place, I went in for the kill. I approached him with all the details of how every single one of his needs would be met while I was gone, except for the most important one for him. Oh well. He'd have to do something else for a semester because my ass was on the plane to Boston. Woo hoo!

It was months of a dream come true. A dream that I didn't even know I could dream. I lived in Eliot House on the third floor. Each room had a fireplace and its own bath with tiny white and black tiles on the floor. There were only two rooms per floor, and I was all by myself on the top floor. A European maid showed up to clean on a regular basis. I had three meals a day in a dining hall the size of a football field, it seemed. There was always a salad bar laden with fresh greens, and above us were crystal chandeliers fit for a palace. The room was dripping with opulence and history. The character of each building was phenomenal. I was from a relatively new state, Colorado, barely over 100 years old by that time, and to be in the midst of where our country fought for its freedom was astounding.

The first public school was founded by Ben Franklin in Boston. There were mock horse hoof prints along Mass Ave. where Charles Dawes took over from Paul Revere on that fateful night after watching for the lights in the Old North Church steeple. MIT was just down the street on Mass Ave., and Radcliffe also not far away. Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War was across the street from Harvard Square, so I could grab a croissant at Au Bon Pain and look at the building where Washington planned his strategies. How awesome was that?

I would type on my typewriter that my father had bought me years ago. I would type all night long because I could. I would write while walking on cobblestone streets. I wrote while waiting for my drink at Cheers. I wrote on the T while traveling to Boston across the Charles. I watched the archaeological digs in Harvard Yard and wrote what I saw in my mind.

There was never a time that I didn't write or at least think about my characters and what they would do next. It was the most magical time for me up to that point in my life to really immerse myself in all that I loved -- seafood, history, New England, and writing.

It would have all been so perfect if I didn't miss my little girl so much. There were nights I cried myself to sleep because I missed holding her. The craziest thing was that she didn't miss me at all. She was having a great time with her grandmother and uncles. To this day she still remembers those months as some of her fondest memories. (I'm writing this whether it's true or not.)

Years later when my marriage was falling apart again, the husband asked me what my happiest time was and I told him it was my time at Harvard because it was something I did for myself. It was something that made my soul blossom. I did what I loved every moment of every day and night. It was a dream come true for me. Besides having my daughter, there was nothing else in my 27-year marriage that even came close to how I felt being at Harvard. Everything else paled so much in comparison that it didn't even register on my radar screen.

To this day, I still think back to my Harvard days with great fondness. I miss New England sometimes and think about what it was like living there. And the writing madness. What a dream! I really felt like a writer there. I wrote where Thoreau and Hawthorne and Longfellow and Alcott and (the list could go on forever) wrote. I wrote where words changed the climate of colonies into a united country. I wrote where some of the greatest minds still go today to voice their words. I wrote, and I became a writer. I was not an office manager. I was a writer. All the work I'd done instead of writing disintegrated, and I became what I always wanted to be.

At least for a few short months.

No matter what happened after leaving Harvard, I still had the memories of what my soul hungered for. I carried those memories with me throughout my life and am reliving them now while writing this post. I remember my Harvard days and know that I am a writer. I am a writer.

Thanks for the memories.

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