We moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico when I was thirteen. For a time, we saw atomic-bomb mushrooms from our front yard every day about noon and then it would rain. In Los Alamos we had a brand new school and the best of everything because the town belonged to the University of California. Dad was a security guard who usually worked at the main gate where everyone who went through had to show their I. D.
Our English teacher, Mrs. McCloskey, a kind and loving person, said I had an ability to write. Our Spanish teacher liked my ear for language. Biology interested me. I recall the frog I dissected and it’s tiny heart I found inside. I suppose that helped me learn to pay attention to detail. Writers need to know all these things and I’m grateful for the assistance of teachers throughout my life.
We had a memorable writing experience in our two-hour core class, which included English and History. Our teacher was young, male, and single, and we all had crushes on him. Our assignment? Turn Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into a comedy, and play it on the stage. While we wrote and compared notes, we played around and laughed a lot. That was a wonderful collaboration. On the day of the play we were having so much fun, we barely noticed that our audience filed out when school was over, even though the play wasn’t over. Maybe I learned about editing from that. Cut, cut, cut.
Six weeks into my senior year dad got a job as an Atomic Energy Commission Courier and the family moved to Albuquerque. Dad was gone a great deal, and as it happened Mother’s new job took her to Nevada from time to time. My brother and I were alone on my seventeenth birthday, so I did what I always liked to do, which was to lay on my bed with Hit Parade Magazine and its lyrics and sing along with my favorite singers. There’s no telling the ways that helped my writing, but I’m sure they were many.
In my Senior year I started learning about true romance first hand. I’d had plenty of dates before, but this one guy…He was in the typing class ahead of me, and because we shared a typewriter he waited for me to get there and I hurried. Eventually he started taking me to the church his family attended and there I went forward to the song, “Love Lifted Me,” and was later baptized.