When I was a young child, my sister, two years younger than I, shared a room with me. We had always been very close, but after our mother died, when I was six and my sister was four, we became even closer.
Our father remarried within a year of our mother’s death, and at some point our parents decided that my sister and I needed some privacy from each other. I remember that we protested, not wanting to be separated, and so they suggested a compromise-a padded board, about two or three feet high, was placed between our beds. I remember telling each other stories over the board, every night, when the lights were out. My stories – those I remember – were almost always architectural. I would describe in great detail the houses we would share in this fantasy world, how many rooms, the surrounding grounds – the image I have is of seeing the floor plans laid out, the connections between the rooms. I don’t remember anything of what we did in those houses, even who we were exactly…just the feeling that these were new spaces, new rooms, new ways of being in the world.
One of our favorite games was building forts, structures of bolsters and pillows and blankets, with tunnels that connected the new rooms: again the theme of an architectural escape from the sad reality of our loss.
While this memory does not really involve reading or writing directly, it involves the construct of story, and I see that notion as part of my life-long resistance to the idea that a story needs a beginning, middle, and end, that there must be conflict, or at least an event that gives content and form to a story. Story was first for me a way simply to construct a space into which to escape from a story that I didn’t want to believe was true. What would happen in that new space didn’t matter – in fact, nothing really needed to happen. The space just needed to be a different space from the one in which reality had told me a story impossible to accept.