Somewhere along the way a sage writing professor suggested that we should ‘mine our childhoods.’ I was never certain what she meant by mine. Excavate or explode? Either way, I think the effect can yield similar results. I instinctively wrote the following line on the top of the blank page: When we were young…
Over the years, I’ve grown to love that prompt. There is so much potential in those four words. At least two characters are introduced by the first-person plural. A perspective has been established, looking back some unknown number of years. The next word is also loaded with possibilities. Some days I simply chose “we,” other days I chose, “I” without really thinking. Occasionally I chose “there.” When we were young there was an abandoned house at the end of the street near the woods. The results vary and more often than not have nothing at all to do with my actual childhood. Tiny, delightful fictions.
I came across a reference to A. A. Milne a few years ago and realized that “When We Were Very Young” is a title of one of his Winnie the Pooh books. I decided I was OK with that. Perhaps the title was lodged somewhere in the recesses of my memory from when I was actually young. By removing “very” I have improved upon the phrase and made it my own.
This morning however, I was avoiding writing by surfing the internet. The new Adele song has grown on me, so I decided to watch the Jimmy Fallon video I had heard so much about. As I watched Jimmy’s rag tag band accompany Adele, my eyes were drawn to the right sidebar on YouTube. There, about three links down, I saw this title: Adele – When We Were Young (Live on SNL). Yes, I clicked on the link. And yes, I immediately confirmed on Amazon that Adele indeed has a song by that title on her new album. Of course I had to purchase the album. The song is now playing as I write this. I have to admit it’s not too bad. The line has served her well. I was distraught for a moment that perhaps I would have to find a new writing prompt, but then I realized I had stopped watching YouTube videos. I had stopped scrolling through Amazon. I had closed out everything else and started writing. In an odd and slightly ironic way, my favorite prompt has succeeded once again and yielded this:
When we were young I stole a kiss as we sat on the picnic table in your back yard at dusk. You seemed surprised, but kissed me back. We were thirteen and didn’t yet know where kisses led. We were thirteen and in love, perhaps the purest love either of us will ever feel. We were thirteen and my house down the street was empty, the boxes already hauled away to the new place. We were thirteen years old and I was moving to the other side of town, just a few miles away, but it might as well have been the other side of the planet. We were only thirteen and we never saw each other again. A different school district. Different friends. Different loves. Different lives. Although for me, forever changed by that stolen kiss near the sunset of our love.