I took a spontaneous book research trip last fall to travel back in time to the New Hampshire campground my parents owned and operated nearly 40 years ago.
You can read about that here.
I resurrected an old manuscript rich with one of my childhood settings. It prompted me to go back in time to the campground my parents owned and operated in New Hampshire. When I drove up, I was zapped back to the 1970s.
Suddenly, I was nine-years-old again. I swam in the pool, fished with my dad, romped through the woods, collected dead butterflies and shotgun shells, whizzed about on strap-on roller skates, played pinball machines, and spun 45 records on the jukebox.
Returning was an emotional gut punch. I could be a child again in that place of innocence but just as it resurrected joyous moments from childhood, it also brought back painful ones and prompted this short piece from a harsh memory.
Holderness, NH, 1978, Winter
A flash of pain wacked my chest. Ice balls hurt!
“Go somewhere else, fat and ugly,” Tommy said, snickering with his older brother, Brian.
“No, it’s my bus stop too,” I said as another ice ball slammed into my arm.
And another. They double teamed me.
Hurry up bus! But no yellow flashed around the corner, only the endless white spread everywhere.
They’d tied me up yesterday. It’d been for fun (I thought). It must be cool to have brothers to play with, so I let them. The rope had scratched and then bit into me as Tommy pulled tighter.
“Double knot it,” Brian said.
Tommy nodded with a laugh and jerked it harder against my wrists to the chair.
“Ow!” I yelled, kicking the edge of my chair. It wobbled but didn’t break.
“Just sit still.” Brian gave me a dirty look so I did.
Musty bits of dust fluttered up from around old chains and tires and shovels, making me sneeze out a big cloud of frosty air.
“Okay,” Tommy said. He and Brian smiled at each other. “We’ll be right back.”
I nodded. And waited. My fingers grew numb. The cold seeped through my red mittens. The light slanted across the one smeared window in the shed.
A snowplow swooshed by at the bottom of the hill.
“Hey,” I called, not wanting to sound scared. But I was.
I wiggled my wrists. The rope sawed against them. The light grew dim. I wiggled more. When were they coming back? It was a game. That’s all. But there was no stopping the tears that burst forth. No way would I let them catch me crying.
I yanked my wrists as hard as I could. Cramped my fingers to untie the knot. The last light slipped away. Shadows reached for me. I ripped the rope away and ran home. Aha! Wait until they come back. They meant to come back, right?
I told my mother what happened as she turned my bleeding, raw wrists around. No big deal. But the fire in her eyes told me otherwise as she ran next door.
Now here I was today, facing my enemy.
“Fat and ugly!”
Their laughter shot loud through the crisp air. I scooped up ice and snow, packed it down, and winged it right in Tommy’s face.
“Hey!” He yelled with surprise.
Red streaks cut across his cheek.
Thwonk! Thwonk! They pelted me. I turned and ran.
But I didn’t. I ran to my special place as fast my chubby legs let me in my snow pants.
I was the only sound in the forest. I spread out in the snow under a pine tree and let the silence fill me up. How long could I stay here? All day? If I did would I disappear?
From down the hill the school bus braked and shuddered then pulled away.
Snow fell soft like butterflies, melting on my nose.
I made a snow angel and looked up at the sky from my wings.
My body soon betrayed me.
Shivering, I tromped home.
I hoped the fire in my mother’s eyes would be the good kind.
What did this trip back in time deliver?
*The vivid feelings of childhood – the good and the bad – to enrich my writing.
*A chance to revisit my creative foundations that gifted me with the yearning to write again.
*The inspiration of a majestic setting to fill my soul.
*The connection from childhood to adulthood – and how the paths we travel drive who we are.
*As a parent now, an appreciation for my parents and their challenges of running a business and raising a child.
*That I write to understand and feel so not alone.
*Through writing I can find meaning in my past and face the future with peace.
*Remembered what I am in my heart: a storyteller.
This visit filled me with a jumble of emotions all tied up with a childhood bow, reflecting splintered sunshine through broken panes.
In writing this piece I realized that I am also drawn to books that revolve around kids experiencing challenging times. Here are some of my favorites books that involve kid heroes:
Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Holes by Louis Sachar
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Surviving Bear Island by Paul Greci (my review – love this book soooo much!)
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandi Nelson
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Read my reviews of these and more books on Goodreads
Have you ever taken a trip into the past to follow creative inspiration? What did you find?