The days of grade school flew by in a flash. Before I knew what had happened I found myself in 7th grade at Donelson High School in the Nashville suburb of Donelson. Today’s distinction within the school grades seems more attuned to the student. Donelson High took us in at 7th grade and kept us until we graduated.
Imagine being a 7th grader changing classes in a large high school with senior high students. My graduating class numbered around 400 students and in 7th grade that meant there were five classes ahead of us as large.
When I had sorted out where I was supposed to be and when, high school life settled in and I found myself enjoying the various challenges of a higher level of learning. Favorite among my classes were those offering the opportunity to write essays or research papers. Putting words to paper and seeing the seed of a story or theme grow to fullness gave me a sense of satisfaction, I suppose much like the farmer whose crops flourish under his caring hands. I truly couldn’t get enough of writing at this point in my life.
I even began to keep a diary at home, but quickly learned that no matter what type of security I attempted parental eyes in the form of my mother’s eyes were finding their way into my written life. I soon gave up keeping a diary and instead would write my thoughts in my mind hoping I wouldn’t forget them all by the time I went away to college.
Somewhere along the way I participated in the annual spelling bee and came out on top winning first place and a trophy declaring me the champion. My love of words had once again served me well. Here’s a grainy, yellowed newspaper clipping announcing my win. Yes, Alice Adams is my high school and college persona (it’s a long story for another day).
During my six years of high school, Daddy kept feeding me with proofreading and editing jobs when I was out of school for holidays, bad winter weather, or summer vacation. Not only did I enjoy making a little money, but also it was another avenue for my education in writing and words. The only part I didn’t like was the government contract work which often dealt with the assembling and disassembling of military weapons, or other major equipment items, none of these of interest to a teenaged girl.
Entering Martin Methodist College in fall 1964, I continued to love English classes where many papers and research projects were assigned as well as reading the classics. I fell in love my freshman year with Jane Austen and William Faulkner. A professor encouraged me in my writing efforts and to him I’ll be forever indebted. His words of praise told me I just might be on to something as I dreamed of being a writer.
My sophomore year in college found me editing the yearbook as well as acting layout editor of the school newspaper. Both positions offered me the opportunity to try my hand at writing in a journalistic vein. Unfortunately, at mid-year I was sent home because of illness and wasn’t allowed to return that year.
By fall of the next year, I was thinking of marriage to a friend from grade school, which is an entirely separate story and one which holds no encouragement for my writing. We’ll just let that one die on the page.
UP NEXT: The next installment takes me into the working world and even there my writing was a large part of my identity.