I used to be one of those children who wrote poetry.
I was one of those swoony little girls who pretended to be a fairy or a dryad in the trees at the end of the schoolyard instead of playing kickball like the Good Lord intended at recess, and I wrote poetry. I would scribble it out in notebooks or on the backs of used printer paper and hide it, and my mother would find it. My mother didn’t like much of anything about me– she was embarrassed by my looks, my lack of social graces and my tendency to burst into tears. But she was excited about the poetry. She kept saving scribbled scraps I tried to throw out.
“We should put them in a book to show people,” she said.
She was wrong.
And I knew she was wrong.
I was only ten years old, but I had read real poetry and real books. This was a year or so before we began homeschooling. I got in trouble at school all the time, for reading Through the Looking Glass and The Lord of the Rings at my desk when I should have been studying the lessons in my reader. I snuck upstairs at Grandma’s house and read her volumes of English poetry. I knew what good writing sounded like. I recognized that what I wrote was embarrassing trash. I sensed that if I kept reading, writing and revising until I was a grown-up, I might eventually be worth my salt as a poet, but I was worse than an embarrassment now.The word got out at school, that I wrote poetry. The teacher saw some of my poetry. At one point, I was dragged before the student body to read a truly heinous rhyming eulogy I’d written for a beloved dead music teacher. And then the whole school knew, and everyone’s parents knew. And somebody’s mother made a call to my mother.
And my mother informed me, when I got back from school that day, that I would be writing a Christmas poem to read aloud at the Children’s Christmas Mass.
I explained that, indeed, I wouldn’t be.
My mother calmly repeated that I would.
I reminded my mother that I hated when she signed me up for things without asking, and she spoke of rebellion and disobedience. I reminded her of the more relevant fact that my poetry was trash, and that children’s Christmas poetry was always trash. The very act of mentioning Christmas in a piece of poetry made it embarrassingly saccharine.
My mother was adamant.
I wrote a poem to read aloud at the children’s Christmas Mass.
It went a thousand times worse than you’d expect.