In second grade, I read a book about Francis Scott Key and his poem that has become our national anthem. The book enthralled me. I remember telling my teacher, Mrs. Lash, all about it … for about 10 minutes … without taking a breath. Finally, I paused a moment and she said, ‘Maybe you should write a book report about it.’ Whew, I’m sure she felt great relief. Until I actually turned in the unassigned book report a day or two later. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Over the years, the dream of writing adjusted as I realized the likelihood of paying bills with that desire. My plan entailed that I would write in my spare time and work in publishing. After college, I would work at a small press in AZ, learning publishing from the ground up while getting my masters degree. After that, I would apply (and, of course, get the job) as an editor at a big house in Chicago–Doubleday, Random House, Simon and Schuster–and work my way up to a senior editor position. But wait, the dream didn’t end there. I planned on applying (and getting) a transfer to a London office where I would work in the crime novel division developing new authors. Of course the huge pipe-dream (because we all have those unrealistic hopes) was to win the Pulitzer by the time I hit 35 and the Nobel Prize for Literature at 50. No one can accuse me of selling myself short….
In high school, I added winning Wimbledon to my list of dreams. Never mind that while I won most of my matches for my team, I really hated practicing and did not have the desire to commit my life to the sport. Regardless, my doubles partner and I would half-heartedly practice in the blazing Arizona sun, then break for a Diet Dr. Pepper (the just-developed soft drink at the time–yes, I’m that old. I even remember when Diet Coke came on the market) and talk about life, love and dreams. But, the writing dream continued and became a sort of ‘happy place’ for me. I would have a winter vacation home in Montana–a large cabin by a lake with a huge overstuffed chair, lots of legal pads for writing (pre-computer age) and lots of books to while away the snowy weather.
So what happened to those dreams? I fell in love with a man in the Air Force, we traveled to exotic places like Alamogordo, NM, and Erzenhausen, Germany. Space Command didn’t send us to Chicago or London. Jud worked mostly shift work and the high demands of military life didn’t afford much home stability when we had our kiddos. So, I volunteered to stay home and give our children stability. Now, everyone is grown and mostly independent (even though they still live in our home) and I can explore dreams again.
Except my dreams at 48 take a different slant than they did at 16. But those childhood dreams help me remember my passions. While I probably won’t win the Nobel in a couple of years and have yet to write anything worthy of it or the Pulitzer, I have discovered other outlets for those dreams. Not working at a publishing house hasn’t stopped me from editing projects for friends and family. Not winning prizes hasn’t stopped me from writing and growing in my ability to communicate through that medium. Just the narcissism has calmed down (I hope).
So when I read about the 3 Chinese girls who died because of the Asiana Flight 214 crash earlier this week, I connected with them. Two of them were 16 (the age of the third girl wasn’t released; but she was a part of their group, so I’m guessing she was also a teenager)–the age when I believed I could be a rising tennis star. I wonder what they hoped and dreamed for their futures? What they hoped and dreamed the summer camp they were traveling to would bring to them? What did they believe was within their grasp that at age 48 would seem utterly ridiculous? They won’t have the chance of looking back at their lives and laughing at some of their impossible dreams.
Feeling the need to memorialize those girls and feeling nostalgic for my own dreams from youth, I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper in their honor. Being 48 and responsible for my health, I’ve given up sodas (diet or otherwise) this year (my mom will think ‘I told you so’ when she reads this, yet, I throw her the bone anyway); but I break my decision this one day in honor of those girls. I raise my glass of Diet Dr. Pepper and drink to their memory and all the lost dreams of youth. I may even go out and hit a few tennis serves this weekend and dream of winning Wimbledon someday–just because I have life and can still dream.