It was the third day back home from fall break. I sat at the dinner table with a slight slouch eating one of Mom’s home-cooked dishes, a beef vegetable soup with bolillo, the fresh kind Dad brings home after work. Mom and Dad sat across from each other slowly sipping away at their soup; the house was quiet, but outside the wind sang with the trees. As I chomped away at the bread, Frida sat beneath my legs, sniffing, wishing she could swap her bark for a bite. If she could talk, she would say to me,
“Are you going to finish that?”
“Yes Frida, I’m going to finish that. You literally just ate, c’mon.”
During the fourth day of break, I spent the afternoon in my corner of the house where I planned to “do” some homework, but after opening my laptop and getting a short dopamine rush from scrolling through the bird app, I saw Mom pull up in the driveway. This sent Frida launching from the comfort of her nest to the garage door to welcome her.
Frida always beats me to hug Mom when she comes back from cleaning her houses.
As I got up from my chair, Má me preguntó from across the house,
“Pabloooo, ¿acompáñame a la tienda? Vamos a comprar hamburguesas de Culver’s.”
I shut my laptop and decided to venture off with Mom. I didn’t want to even think about doing homework; plus, time spent with her is more valuable than doing research for my final paper and doom scrolling through Twitter… I also got to eat some lunch.
After grocery shopping at Big Top and using our two-for-one coupon at Culver’s, Mom and I drove home to find Frida waiting for us at the door, furiously wagging her tail, when she finally spoke to us,
“Where’s my burger?”
Once inside and after even more failed attempts to do homework, I officially gave up and went on a few excursions in the depths of my home. The urge to explore came to me as I sat in my living room. I was reminded of my childhood as I stared at photos of me and my siblings in our cracked, dry driveway in Paramount.
I kept seeing my own reflection through the mantled family picture frames that sat neatly on the drawers throughout the house. I ran upstairs and scoured through the packed boxes in my sister’s closet filled with memorabilia from my childhood bedroom. The boxes were stored in her room because my own room had happily become occupied by someone from Guatemala who was in need of a place to call home — a foster friend who had left before I returned home for fall break.
So now, the room sits empty.
It’s only company?
A lone blue sofa chair, a dusty shelf, a broken closet door that hugs one of the four white painted walls and Mom’s purple yoga mat I borrowed for some morning stretches.
But, back in my sister’s room, I found two of my old elementary school creative writing notebooks under high school theater notes and marching band sheet music in the boxes that cluttered her closet.
And I read them all. Page to page. Front to back. Looking at every scribble, every doodle, every period, every character, every line of dialogue and every crease.
On the first pages, there was a letter that I wrote from the perspective of my teacher at the end of my school year when I was nine.
A letter to my future self from the perspective of my teacher… quite the assignment.
I also had rediscovered the origins of my sloppy handwriting dating back to the third grade.
A short reflection on a summer memory at the harbor with my family… I got to ride the duck paddle boat! I guess it was really comfurbal too…
Re-reading through the pages gave me a glimpse into my past state of mind and more importantly, the many ways my writing has changed and yet also remained the same. The most notable takeaway from third-grade Pablo was his fascination with writing stories centered on great adventures, inspired by shows like ‘Dragon Ball Z,’ ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Invader Zim;’ video games; and time spent on the YouTube spoof side of the internet. Many of the stories didn’t make it past the first or second page, and I wonder where they were going.
And here we have food people… it looks like they’re having a good time.
I’ve been journaling for almost four years now come December, and when I look through my journal, I see that some things have remained entirely the same since the third grade. I still write down my thoughts, jot down notes and draw as a way to empty out my brain.
I like being able to flip through the pages and relive any moment of my choosing from the past. It could be a good moment or a bad moment, a sad moment or a happy moment — but whatever the moment, I get to see where I was in life.
Entries from this past summer… I still have the same old skittish handwriting as I try to make sense of my day-to-day adventures… my internship had me stressed out!
I still love to doodle and come up with stories that may or may not get published for readers. As I reflect, I see maturity in my writing and how I’ve been able to channel the creative energy to create something that I am passionate about. When I write and draw, it feels like I’m the movie director, stage designer, prop master and music composer all in one. I get to choose what I want to say and how I’m going to say it.
Titles and pieces written in Spanish? — Yes, The Michigan Daily needs more of this.
Photo essays? — Yes, something fresh and new that allows me to write exciting pieces.
Illustrations in my pieces? — Yes, I love to doodle and I want to share that with people.
I keep writing because I have full control over all these moving parts, and it’s what I’ve been doing all these years within the pages of my journals. I also wonder what new forms of writing I can continue to explore — poetry? Screenplays? Short stories? — the possibilities are truly endless.
Lots of characters and faces, I wonder what their personalities are … also thank you, Haley, for making these handmade journals for the whole family.
Over the summer, when I was creating the idea for “Rat and Mouse,” a short story about friendship between two rodents, I thought I was venturing beyond the bounds of my usual creative process, but in fact, I’ve been doodling and making up stories since third grade. It all started with a doodle… and then conflict… and then a purpose.
Someone wants something badly and is having a hard time getting it … this is what is needed for a story to really work.
I could have written “Rat and Mouse” back in third grade. Nothing about the story changes: Rat just wants a perfect beach day, but Mouse keeps getting in the way. At its core it’s a story about friendship through the eyes of two small rodents, but there is more to it that third-grade Pablo wouldn’t be able to understand.
Like, how the childlike wonder of storytelling can be used to honor and remember a lost friend.
A friend who is in our hearts every day, in every tear, in every minute, in every word, in every scribble, in every doodle, in every period, in every character, in every line of dialogue and in every crease on paper.
Whatever we read or write, remember that there is life behind every word, every metaphor, every period and every illustration.
In whatever you do, don’t forget who you are doing it for. I’ve found out that I want to keep writing with and for my loved ones because storytelling has the ability to bring people together. It creates sparks of joy, and it’s an escapism from our days. I’ve found that writing has made me prioritize time to sit with my own thoughts and process feelings instead of keeping them within myself .
I also encourage you to start writing. Whether it’s in your journal, on your computer, notes app or even a napkin, just start writing. Let your imagination and creativity continue to grow. Don’t leave it behind in those elementary school black composition notebooks.
I hope to read some of your stories one day…
MiC Columnist Juan Pablo Angel Marcos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.