The Right to Write – Place

The Right to Write – Place

Inspired by The Right to Write by Julia Cameron.

Write down every place you’ve lived and then pick one of those places to write about a vivid memory.

(Written 3/13/24)


I am six years old and we just moved to Ottawa, Illinois, from Fresno California, which is where I attended kindergarten. I start first grade two weeks late at St. Columba elementary school. I have to wear a navy blue pleated skirt and a white blouse. I acquire a navy blue sweater and a navy blue beanie with the St. Columba logo on it. My teacher is Sister Lillian, and she is nice, but mostly I feel lost and overwhelmed. She assigns a girl named Diane Fitzgerald to hold my hand on the playground and show me around. This lasts for two weeks. I complain to Sister Lillian when Diane doesn’t hold my hand anymore. She says I’m fine on my own, but I don’t believe her. The playground feels like a tilt-a-whirl, and I don’t know anyone. The only thing I participate in is crossing my fingers against Marie Monheim’s cooties. I want acceptance so badly. I don’t know what cooties are, but apparently, they are something to seek protection from. Cross your fingers! Marie Monheim had red hair, blue eyes and pale, freckled skin. Why she’d been singled out for ridicule, I didn’t know. It never occurred to me to question it or that what I participated in was deeply hurtful to someone else. I must have known. But I didn’t have any confidence in myself to stand up to it. I certainly didn’t want to be an outcast like Marie! I was trying to fit in and make friends. I went to St. Columba through 5th grade but developed no lasting friendships. I had a bit of a crush on Casey Burrows and remember walking home with him once. We lived three blocks from the school. My best friend lived next door–also named Barbara — the only child of parents who seemed much older than mine. Barb went to the public school. (Horrors! Those heathens!) She was spoiled but we had many good times playing together over the years and we stayed friends after I moved away. We were all thrilled — my brothers and me that is — when Mom and Dad bought a house down the street. It used to be an apartment house and we each got our own rooms. The rooms were HUGE. We didn’t live there very long because Dad changed jobs. AGAIN. I know Steve and I have agreed that if we had stayed in Ottawa all of our lives would have been much different, i.e., better. We were feeling secure there, I think. And to start over AGAIN? It was tough. It changed us. 


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