The doorway into my imaginary home was the branch I used to pull myself up into the crabapple tree. The branch next to it was my kitchen and the branch beyond it, the living room. On the backside of the tree was the bedroom branch.
At the age of five, cheered on by my siblings, this was the first tree I had learned how to climb. For the rest of my childhood, despite climbing many other trees, the crabapple stayed my favorite. I spent hours in it, thinking, imagining, making up stories and eating frozen chocolate chip cookies I’d filched from the new chest freezer in our farmhouse basement. Each year, when my tree’s small apples had rosy cheeks, I’d sit on the kitchen branch munching on these close-to-hand snacks.
Like the garden of Eden, the farmyard I grew up in was filled with many beautiful flowers with names I learned as well as the names of my siblings. Flowerbeds bordered the front and back of the farmhouse where there was a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Lawn chairs and a lawn-swing provided wonderful places to sit.
The orchard where my tree grew, was on the backside of the garage that contained grandpa’s apartment. Beneath the apple trees were clumps of raspberry canes and beds of purple violets. By the time I was ten, the garden had sprawled to surround the orchard on three sides.
On cold, rainy days, books were my companions in the house. They contained the stories I imagined while playing outdoors. I dreamed of being a writer; of creating a literary world of my own that other people could visit.
My attempts at writing were clumsy and poor, but I felt as if I was giving birth to a beloved baby each time I wrote. My inner editor, even then, was an exacting beast. Going back to read my words the following day, the poor quality of what I had produced mortified me. I liked to read, so I knew what made good copy!
When I was about ten, I wrote something that my mother discovered. I suspect she didn’t like the topic I’d chosen. Her critique made me feel so horrible and shamed that I tore the paper into small pieces.
I dug a hole in the garden near my favorite crabapple tree. The spring soil was moist and fertile. Apple blossom petals the size of my paper shreds dotted the ground. Pushing dark earth over the fragments of my writer’s dreams, I buried my shame.
For a long time I didn’t try to write. During high school the urge returned. My childhood stories were sweet but unremarkable. I attended a writer’s group. Although gently given, their advice again made me feel embarrassed and wonder, “Who am I to attempt writing? I am not good, educated, smart or experienced enough to write!”
After I reached adulthood, the urge to write returned a few times, but my low self-esteem made it impossible to tolerate critique and editing. Finally, at the age of 38 I decided, “I have things I want to say. I want to write. To do that, I need to swallow my pride.”
A year later, in 1990 the Marshfield Buyer’s Guide hired me to write a weekly column for their paper. Despite vacations, family marriages and deaths, for the next twenty-five years I posted an article every seven days.
In September of 2015 the Buyer’s Guide sent me an email that said they would no longer pay me for my services. Not missing a beat, I began posting weekly articles in my blog, lifelinesbykathy.com
I often remember how I buried, or perhaps planted, one of my first childish attempts to write in my mother’s fertile garden. As a gardener, I know when you put seeds into the ground, they will eventually germinate and grow. It took a long time for my planted first story to grow, but it has been yielding literary produce for the last thirty years.