Monday, July 16, 2012

Inspiration and Serendipity

When I was young my dad was a pilot. He wasn't the cool kind of pilot I could brag to my friends about. He wasn't a commercial jet pilot, a fighter pilot, or a stunt pilot. No, he was hobby pilot who flew light aircraft. That meant being crammed into a flimsy 1950's style Cessna that stank of diesel, and the whole plane would shudder when the ancient propellers got started. It meant it took forever to get to a destination. It meant getting stranded at airports in the middle of nowhere while we waited for the weather to change. These airports often consisted of nothing more than broken-down sheds with little for a bored kid to do. It was a real treat if the place had a snooker table. I learnt to play snooker at an extremely early age. I also learnt to be open to new experiences—that took a bit longer.

At one such place, the weather was scorching hot. We were—yet again—stranded somewhere in the outback of Australia while we waited for a storm to pass our destination so we could land when we got there. We drank homemade soft drinks (soda pop) from recycled bottles and played snooker with one of the locals in a tin shack that was missing a wall. The land was vast and dry to the horizon, and the sky stretched out into forever.

I remember having a philosophical discussion with the local as the flies buzzed around in the heat. I would've been no more than seven at the time. I wanted to know how he could know that the red snooker balls he saw were the same colour I could see. For all I knew, I was seeing green, which everyone had labelled red. It took a while to get across my meaning and I don't recall any satisfying answer, but it made me think deep thoughts for the first time as I pondered our individuality and tried to work out my place in the world.

I'm still working that last one out, but I believe the experience became the seed of my writerly mind. Did I appreciate it at the time? Absolutely not! To this day I have an intense dislike for the stench of diesel. But I have some amazing memories I wouldn't have had otherwise—of the people I met, of the places I visited, of landing a plane on a beach because the island my dad wanted to visit didn't have an airport.

Every experience we have is food for our creative muses. Every experience plays a part in moulding us into the people we are today. What are some of your special memories from your early childhood that stand out in your mind?

Photo: I took this photo in the Northern Territory of Australia many years later.

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68 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I could even remember that age...
    Hey, but that gave you an experience most kids would never enjoy. (Or, not enjoy.)
    I remember the foreign countries we lived in when I was a kid. I'm a military brat so I remember being around planes a lot. And I remember our trip to Yellowstone! (That place stinks as well.)

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  2. I've been to Yellowstone once but I don't remember it stinking. hehehe. Sounds like you've been around a lot as well.

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  3. I remember my entire neighborhood being shut down b/c there had been a prison break at the state prison less than a quarter of a mile from my house where my dad worked. This happened again when my little 2 year old brother 'disappeared' about the time of one of these prison breaks and the whole neighborhood were convinced he had been taken only to find him asleep under the couch cushions an hour and a half later.

    I hadn't thought about the 'occupational hazards' of my dad's job in a long time. Great post, lady!

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    1. Your memories sound like the beginning of a cool novel.

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  4. I'm the child of an auto mechanic. The smell of motor oil brings back wonderful memories. Fetching an open-end 5/8" wrench for Dad gave me great pride. I met interesting people who brought their cars for him to fix; one who believed a joke sign which read: Labor: $10/hour - If you watch, $15/hour - If you help, $25/hour. ~ Thanks for the memories.

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    1. lol, I love that sign.Those early memories we have of our parents are so special

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  5. Ha, I've had quite a few discussions about that very color thing! (My little-kid theory was that it was based on your eye color. Kid logic is so wonderfully basic.)

    I can't think of any distinct memories from my childhood to contribute to my writerly mind. It's more like a bunch of memories. Since I grew up the only child for miles in the middle of the woods, I had to use my imagination to keep my occupied, which meant standing in our yard and imagining buildings and roads where they didn't exist, and coming up with imaginary people to fill those buildings and roads. I think that's how I ended up writing at such an early age. Good times.

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    1. See, that's good thinking about the iris colour!! I hadn't thought of that. :)

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  6. Lynnie, nothing springs to immediate mind insofar as my own experiences but I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading this. Even your personal anecdotes are handled with a modest grace.

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  7. I remember having that same color convo with my BFF while swinging ten feet above the air in our favorite neighborhood park. Thanks for reminding me. ^_^

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  8. What a great story, I love that! I recall having a conversation with a friend when I was a teen about how to make a tree. Of course I said "you plant it." But he meant, how do you create a tree with no seed, no clippings, merely your knowledge of the universe. My answer was "you don't." And he said "what if you could?" Those three words changed the way I saw the world.

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    1. It's pretty amazing how such a little thing can make such a big difference.

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  9. Was a lovely blast from the past for me. I didn't stagger about in a plane, but I was sure driven around a lot in the Western Queensland outback,or rode horses. Since I left childhood behind I've driven over practically the whole of Oz. Love the NT (lived there for a year), as I did in Tassie. All the experiences I had in these places, the original characters I met, the gorgeous (or ugly) scenery, all fuelled my love of travel and writing about it.

    Denise

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  10. What a unique memory. Definitely some story fodder there for you to use.

    My family started backpacking in the mountains when I was about nine, and it made a huge impression on me. I used to imagine what it would be like to live alone in the wilderness, like in the novel My Side of the Mountain.

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  11. I remember thinking about the same thing at about the same age. Didn't talk to anybody about it, though.

    Most of my early memories involve books, one way or another. I remember finding The Forgotten Door in the school library. I think I was in second grade.

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  12. This is a beautiful story, Lynda :) Thanks for sharing. And as much as I hate the Australian summer, I guess this kind of story makes me a bit nostalgic for it. Yes, I must be insane. haha

    Love that conversation you had when you were 7. ;)

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  13. It's funny, growing up we had a hobby farm, which basically means root and rock picking every weekend. I hated it as a kid, but now as an adult, I remember all the incredible good about it. It was wonderful walking the huge fields, having so much space to think big thoughts. We used to cook potatoes in tin foil in the coals of a campfire and make tree forts.

    Like you, there was always the smell of deisel and gasoline, but I love the smell now. it reminds me of that time. :)

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  14. I think I need to google snooker--no idea what it is :) I love your question though, sounds like a really interesting conversation starter in my book! I was out on my family's ranch today thinking about growing up out there and making forts in the spring weeds, when they'd grow taller than me. I love that property--it's my home!

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    1. Think Tom Cruise and Paul Newman in "The Color of Money".

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  15. That is such a fond memory... I loved the question you posed to the local about the ball colours:) I wish I could remember what I did when I was 7.. hmmm I was back in Romania doing gymnastics, with no idea that in a years time I'd leave the country behind and move to Australia forever:)

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  16. I love this post. I'd like to hear more of your stories from your childhood travels.

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  17. I was shaking reading the beginning of this. I am so terrified of flying and a Cessna? Argh! Do love your question. Very Bertram Russell for a little girl :)

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  18. It's funny how we don't appreciate some of the "boring" experiences of our childhood until we're considering them in the rear view mirror, isn't it? Flying around with your dad in an old airplane sounds pretty darned exciting to me, and I love that conversation about the color of the snooker balls. Good to know I wasn't the only kid who thought about that sort of thing.

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  19. I think my earliest memory is of my Aunt Norma's kitchen at a family party. Lots of people, me in pj's, and lots of food. The men were playing cards at the table and the women were in the living room gossiping. It has always been my quintesential memory of "family".

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  20. you could write a book about this, darling, instead of writing YA :ppp Beautifully written post, and such lovely memories.... flying as a kid over Australia.... you do know one in a billion people experience that......

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    1. Maybe it will turn up in one of my YA books :P
      With your dislike for YA, I'm thinking you've been reading the wrong YA stories ;)

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  21. That sounds beyond amazing! Sometimes the simple things are far more interesting than the high-end, expensive ones. My favorite childhood memory is from camping with my family. I discovered a grassy knoll on the top of a hill behind our campsite, complete with butterflies!

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  22. What a lovely story and a lovely example of your writerly mind germinating. I believe we all perceive colours slightly differently, hence colour blindness and colour preferences.
    I remember watching a man wipe his hands on a dirty, paint smeared rag after working, then putting the rag down and pulling out a dirty, paint smeared handkerchief from his pocket to blow his nose. It made me aware of idiosyncracies and absurdities in our personalisties, which I guess is the basis of characterisation.

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  23. That's awesome! What great experiences you ahve to pull from! :) My mom has always been friendly and observant. She taught us to watch and listen and learn - priceless :)

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    1. Sounds like your mum gave you a precious gift.

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  24. Wonderful story.


    I remember Fourth of July spent at Lake Michigan with family.

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  25. Those seem like incredible experiences. We would cram in the Chrysler and drive to Cape Cod without A/C. Four kids and three adults. Insanity. A plane sounds better.

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  26. New follower here, nice to meet you =) Great story!

    I have happy memories of neighborhood kickball games and backyard badminton tournaments.

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    1. welcome! Fun with the neighbourhood kids was always a blast :)

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  27. That's a wonderful memory!

    Special memories . . . hmm. My mom and I used to drive one state over every week and visit a city where she used to live; I always remember it as being quite a lot of fun.

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  28. sweet memories to look back on. my dad is a pilot of small planes and i am not a fan...
    i remember swimming at the pond by my aunt's house with my cousin and little sis. we had lots of family around and now we dont. i wish circumstances could bring us closer...

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    1. Ah, so you understand that having a pilot for a dad isn't as glamorous for a kid as one would think ;)

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  29. Lynda, sounds as though you have some very interesting stories based on your trips with your dad.

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  30. Lovely story! As a child I used to love camping in our pale green and white tent - a pole held it up in the centre. We slept on stretchers made of heavy sacking. We washed our dishes in a plastic bucket. We did many, fun, simple things.

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  31. You could probably write a book about some of your experiences with your dad!

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  32. Thanks for the memories good and bad. When I was seven we immigrated to America from Holland after I had visited my grandmother for fourteen days. I missed my mother dreadfully and then we moved. I was damaged beyond repair from that poorly planned exodus. We arrived on Friday and went to school on Monday. None of us knew any English and this was way before ESL. I Didn't know how to ask "where to go to the bathroom" I had PTSD and cried before school for a whole year then we moved five times in one year once. Enough for now although I could go on but why bore you. this has turned out so long anyway. Thanks for making me think. :)

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    1. Wow, your experiences sound like they could be memoir worthy--so much upheaval for someone so young.

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  33. This sounds fascinating, but I can see how this might seem mundane or boring to a child. I remember boring instances during my childhood, when I was stuck with people and situations I didn't care for, and later on as an adult they fueled my imagination.

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  34. Wow - you were really smart for a seven-yr-old. You must have been pondering the Schrodinger's cat conundrum while the rest of us were pondering ... well, something dopey. lol
    I'm sure your adventures gave you a lot of fodder to write about, and that's always good. :-)

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  35. Well I think it is pretty cool to be own a plane, you have the chance to ride on one too.

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  36. That sounds amazing, Lynda, but I can see how those experiences are better appreciated in hindsight than through the eyes of a little girl :-)
    I've asked that do-you-see-what-I-see question before! It still puzzles me sometimes. But then, I was never very good in physics class - I kept asking questions like "what do you mean I can only see this table because light is bouncing off it? I can touch it can't I? And if colour is just light refraction, then how do we make dye?" And so on...

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  37. What fond memories. I know you said your dad wasn't a cool pilot, but your childhood sounds pretty cool to me.

    BTW, what's snooker? :)

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    1. Snooker is also known as pool. Think of the 80's movie, The Colour of Money with Tom Cruise and Paul Newman.

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  38. That is absolutely fascinating. What a unique experience, growing up, and all the adventures you had with your dad and that old plane. Have you started writing them?
    My adventures were on the farm. Not nearly as exciting. Family was all around, all the time, and summers were hot and buggy.

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    1. I hadn't thought of that memory for a long time, so no I haven't written any of those memories down. And farm adventures are super cool!! I remember sitting on my dad's lap while driving a tractor for the first time. To a little kid, the tractor seemed like a huge monster.

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  39. Wow! It sounds like quite the adventure. I used to wonder such things too, but I do love philosophy.

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  40. your childhood memory sounds very lovely--i could just see it--:)

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  41. I'd love to go on such adventures! You were a clever kid to think of such things. Funny thing, I wrote a story when I was around eight about two people arguing about the color of the girl's eyes. One said they were blue and the other said they were green, and they wondered if they saw the same colors.

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  42. I would say the numerous experiences with my family and friends and how relationships develop over time. Those aspects are in all my stories! :) Neat experiences.

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  43. I've had thoughts and discussions similar to yours, but at an older age. I wonder if non-writers think the same? Your photo is great. It is a little different, but reminds me of parts of the American Southwest.

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  44. I have had a few cherished memories of listening to my grandmother narrate stories to me in my childhood. Perhaps that fuelled my desire to write my own stories.

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  45. My father would tell stories to his children and a few neighborhood kids. We looked forward to this each night in the summertime. We'd gather in the patio, after the sun had set, a single candle burning on the picnic table. And Dad would make up the craziest stories to delight his audience. Of course, we were his main characters.

    He was the best, and I still love him with all my heart. Victoria Marie Lees

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  46. Sounds like you have a lot of wonderful childhood memories. Would've loved to be on a plane like that:)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  47. What a cool memory, Lynda! I rode in a little plane once as a kid, and I feel like I know just the smell you're describing--bluh! :p

    I have some memories of time spent with my grandparents that are special to me. And time w/my brother and his friends. I was always kind of watching as a child, and I think you're right. It's the seeds~ :o) <3

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  48. My special memories were riding bikes with my friends all over. We'd go for miles and explore new places and meet new people. Have bike, will explore.

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  49. Neat story:) My uncle flies similar aircraft and first took me up when I was three years old. He even let me fly the plane for a few moments. That's one of my special memories.

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    1. Ha! Yeah, I got to fly the plane as well--briefly.

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  50. Look! Another post about seeing colours! http://ironicalcoincidings.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/monkey-sees-red-man-to-see-ultraviolet/

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  51. Our early thoughts & adventures are the very food of our writing endeavors. I can easily see you, your dad, and his flying adventures landing front & center in a novel.

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  52. Thanks for sharing your story, Lynda. When I think of my childhood, I can come up with a lot of memories. Today I'm thinking of the times my grandmother and I would sit at the living room window through an afternoon while looking out into the front yard together.

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  53. Hi Lynda, thanks for following my blog, I'm not sure I've ever visited here before! As for childhood memories, perhaps you would be interested in looking at another blog of mine: www.jesusknowsmyname.wordpress.com I wrote about my childhood "bedroom". Scroll down a few posts and you will see the photo of my bedroom "Part 1". God uses every experience in our lives--even the ones we hate going through!

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  54. your blog post are very interesting, I enjoy reading your posts.

    An experience that stands out in my memory would be, nearly dying because me and my friend ate poison berries.
    It happened when I was ten years old. My grandfather didn't let me ride my bicycle that sunday as I had my mid year exams the next day, but I stole the bike and went for a ride. Later he caught ma and spanked me, so I ran away from home and went for a swim in the river. It was there that me and my friend saw many kids eating some kind of a wild berry. it tasted sweet and we ate many. After some time I vomited what looked like blood, I can't remember how I reached home, but I was the first to reach the hospital.
    We made the headlines in the Kuensel the only newspaper in my country then.

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    1. yikes! That's a memory and a half! As a kid it would've been so cool that you got in the headlines though ;)

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