For those of you who were wondering why I spam your emails with my nonsense, and for those who found your unfortunate, bored selves on my page, here is the story:
When I was in the second grade, I completed my first full-length story. It was titled Sally’s Soup, written as neat as I could get it, placed onto Dollar Store construction paper, accented by crude drawings of what I had intended to be humans, and tied together sloppily by pieces of yarn I had stolen from my mother. The best part though was the bottom right of the cover page where it stated that it was “by Lisa Pham.” I took pride writing those words because it signified the creation of something that was solely mine. I was incredibly proud of it (the whole book; not just the part with my credit).
The plot of it has escaped me. I think it had something to do with a girl wanting to cook her mom “the best soup ever” as a Mother’s Day present. She ends up spilling it, and hides under the table to avoid getting into trouble. I forgot what happened at the end but I’m sure it was something happy, cheesy, terribly cliched, and possibly a little endearing.
Or maybe it was finalized with a powerful statement on child abuse depicted through the tragic death of Sally. Again, it’s a little blurry to me.
I remember thinking how good it was when it was finished. I read it out loud to my parents who laughed and commented on how “silly” it was. Instead of feeling utterly crushed, I let the criticism slide off me. They didn’t know much English anyway.
In class, we would daily story time where the awkward, pale man who presided over our activities (no offense at all to that wonderful teacher; he was a very nice guy) would choose a small book that either he or one of the students would read. Sometimes, students would come in with “books” of their own. They consisted of scribbly sketches of their family with the names written at the bottom of each stick-figure. The other pages would be filled with pictures of a sport they played, their favorite holiday (almost always Christmas), or a coveted family pet that for some reason deserves a page of its own. These toddler tellers would spend their five minutes of rocking chair time boring the class as they chanted, “This is my dad,” pointing to the tallest, broadest figure on the page, “And this is my mom,” pointing to an alien with a triangle-shaped body and eyelashes that go past the forehead.
I decided one day, after having to sit through another one of those horrid presentations, to construct something of my own. However, I did not want to do my family. Not only did I think that the idea was stupid, and the last thing I wanted to be was one of those kids, but also because I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’d draw my dad with his John Deere cap and my mom with her tousled hair thrown up and secured by a claw clip. I’d draw me with the Barbie pillow I had adored and always dragged around with me. I’d talk about how we didn’t celebrate Christmas because we were Buddhist and I wasn’t allowed to have a pet or play sports.
I couldn’t do that; I didn’t know how to draw a claw clip.
So I decided to do a made-up story. “Fiction.” I loved that word; it was so pretty-sounding to me.
I have no idea how I came up with the idea for Sally’s Soup. I enjoyed soup, and Mother’s Day was coming around at the time. Shows and commercials on TV would always show dads and children making the moms trays of breakfast for the holiday. Since I couldn’t cook by myself, my father would have been completely uncooperative in the process, and my mother would have failed to appreciate it as much as the women I saw on screen, I never got to do the same.
So I made Sally do it, and I made her into a clumsy fool whose fate would lead to the inevitable spill.
The day after I had finished it, I brought it into class, my heart beating happily. I tried not to be too optimistic; for all I knew, the other kids could have hated it. They could have demanded the regular This-Is-My-Family series back and thrown their juice boxes at my pretentious face.
But I decided that wouldn’t matter because I had written a story; it was awful but it was written, and I was going to be able to release my words into the waxy ears of twenty-something second graders. I was excited.
I had packed it neatly in my book-bag, careful not to let it wrinkle or rip with contact with my other papers and books. It was tucked snugly between my science and reading folders and in perfect condition when I pulled it out.
Finally, it was story time. I looked over the book one last time, planning out how I would read each page in my head. When Mr. AwkwardPaleNice called people to gather on the carpet, I skipped next to him and almost shoved it in his face.
“I wrote a story, Mr. AwkwardPaleNice,” I said.
“Oh really?” He took the copy from me and quickly scanned over the pages. A smile swept across his face, and I couldn’t help restrain one of my own. “This is really cool, Lisa. Maybe we’ll get to it today.”
He carried away my masterpiece and slid it into a paper rack in front of a cramped row of papers and folders. I watched carefully as he simply walked away and sat back down, asking the class what they wanted read.
I stared at him blankly. Did that just happen? He would sometimes do that with some of the other toddler teller stories when we didn’t seem to have enough time in class but this was not the average toddler tale. I had made something with a somewhat sensible beginning, middle, and end; something that was definitely worthy of five minutes of rocking chair time.
Mr. AwkwardPale didn’t think so, obviously, and picked out another book to read. He must have sensed my anger from across the carpet because before delving into Dr. Seuss for the 80th time, he looked up, saw me, and announced to the class, “And Lisa wrote a story she wants to read to the class. Hopefully we can fit it in today,” he looked up at the clock with little optimism, and then back down to me with a small smile.
So I sat down and listened to him as he read a book that was not mine. I don’t remember what book it was but I do remember thinking to myself, “Hurry up!”
Eventually, he finished, and I wanted to jump in the air shouting, “My turn!” But no. Some idiot behind me requested something else, raising his hand in the air neurotically. Mr. AwkwardPale indulged him, and we spent the next couple of minutes reading what NeuroticChild thought was a work of genius.
After that, I’m not sure what happened. We might have picked out another book or we might have gotten sidetracked and started a discussion on something random. Either way, we didn’t read Sally’s Soup.
“Okay everybody, back to your seats,” Mr. AwkwardPale commanded, gesturing us back to the front of the room. When he caught a glance of me (probably glaring at him like a member of the Children of the Corn) he added, “We’ll get to yours next time.”
Next time came and the time after that, and we somehow never got to it. We were always busy with something. We read other things, we talked of other things, we were called to assemblies or fire drills. I think one time we even let another family story pass through.
I think Mr. AwkwardPale eventually just forgot about it. Of course, I made an effort to remind him every so often but I was too shy to push it too hard. He would always promise that we would “get to it.” After a while, even I forgot about it, and it simply laid there on his desk, neglected and unappreciated, for almost a whole school year.
When the last day of school approached, I finally remembered that it was still there. It was at this point that I became somewhat bitter. All year, through all the story times we had, and not a second was given to my book. I felt like going up to Mr. AwkwardPale and questioning him on his competency as a educator.
I didn’t, however, because questioning him on his competency as an educator for me back then would have went something like this: “You’re stupid!”
So I kept quiet and took it from the metal crate. A piece of paper that had rested next to it slipped out in the process and floated down to the floor. I didn’t pick it up and marveled at my magnificent revenge.
Once again, I slid it into my bookbag, tucking it neatly in the middle to prevent damage, and took it home.
I don’t know what happened to Sally’s Soup. It’s probably lost with all my other papers from elementary school; a tragic fate for a piece of work consisting of bad illustrations and worse writing.
It didn’t matter though because the next year, after I had graduated from Mr. AwkwardPale’s class, my parents’ bought me my first computer. I was fascinated by the word processor. I could write and store all of my genius in folders and most importantly, change the font color!
WordPress doesn’t let you do that, apparently. Shame.
After that, I started writing prolifically. Between third grade and eighth grade, I would spend a majority of my free time typing up something I thought was going to be the start of a great novel, only to end up losing interest in it and moving onto something else. I never got to finish another book but I started about fifty million of them.
Then, I discovered blogging. It was fun but I made my first account on BlogSpot and got no traffic whatsoever (except for that of my best friend, who I had to force into reading it).
On WordPress, while I am still mostly ignored, at least I get a like or two every month or so.
No matter how pathetic this is, it’s enough to encourage me to try and write more, even though my schedule has gotten significantly busier since I entered high school.
So for any of you who read this, or merely skimmed it, thank you. Thank you for wasting your time with me, and thank you for being the second-grade audience I never had.
Your beloved blogger,