In a letter addressed to her friend Judi from the early 1990s, a then-little girl named Judith was told “there are eight principles of literature: honesty, beauty, freedom, goodness, wisdom, wonder, and fun.” A decade later, she would come to be far more interested in the latter than the others. This was partly why I wrote my book and my mind was supposed to spend more time wandering than on shaping.
Soon after Judi’s letter was sent, she was in preschool but Judith was also focused on math and science and playing with pens. One Saturday, Judy’s parents took her to the hospital for a checkup. After an ultrasound Judy’s biological mother emerged and Judy asked if she had her baby any longer. The answer shocked her: it was dead. From her mind’s perspective, this event ushered her into adulthood and that, in turn, heralded the end of her first years.
When Judith was a bit younger than Judi, a nice Jewish boy friend named Robert approached her with a question. During an afternoon stroll, he had noticed that she was squeezing a piece of paper with a long pole stuck through it. He said that he thought it looked funny, so he walked on and stopped when they neared a street sign.
At that moment, the long pole was brought to her attention and while she was looking at it, he got down on one knee and presented her with a marriage proposal.
Later that summer, Judith was beginning fourth grade. She was coming to the end of what she called “a period of boy-girl time” and she wondered what she was going to do.
In a reverie, she then thought of her father’s books and wished that she could do something with them, like read them aloud or be around them. Her mother and her grandmother, whom she loved more than her father, had encouraged her to write. But Judith felt that it was never her time. So she did not.
In the years since, as she has come to know herself and begin to think about herself, Judith has come to appreciate the pleasure her father took in his writing. She loved him for being a writer, and he loved her, even if she wasn’t a writer. And once she turned 10, her father took her to the library and bought her a set of books with labels to guide her with.
“It has finally come to pass for me to become a writer,” Judith wrote to her father in 1998, “and reading matters. And … reading is how I try to make the books that you bought me for my birthday even more beautiful.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.