I taught myself to read when I was three years old because I wanted to write stories so badly.
That’s how my About page begins.
However, what I didn’t share is what I did BEFORE I could read.
You see, I had the craving even then to tell stories. I wanted so badly to capture the words and images flowing through my head.
But I had no way to put them on paper.
Until, that is, I received a visit from the Happy-Faced Spiders.
Yes, yes. I know they look more like suns than spiders. (Keep in mind, I wasn’t quite three yet when I started drawing them.) Nevertheless, I knew what they were. I also knew that they helped me tell stories.
(Side note: My friend Emerald Greenforest pointed out to me that my drawing spiders makes perfect sense, as in Druid lore, the spider is the guardian of languages and brought us words.)
So, I would draw pictures starring these little critters, and then, I would share them with my parents and tell the “story” that went with each image.
Most of my stories had happy endings (hence, why I named them the “Happy-Faced Spiders” stories). But, on occasion, I would tell a sad story, which would of course feature Sad-Faced Spiders. (The sad stories were really quite sad, as everyone would die in the end. Basically, my version of a Shakespearean eight-legged tragedy.)
I drew my Happy-Faced Spiders everywhere (even, to my mother’s chagrin, on the walls of our rental house). My mother went so far as to make me a Happy-Faced Spider dress, on which she embroidered one of the spiders right on the front. (She made shirts for my grandfather and my father as well.)
Everyone loved my Happy-Faced Spiders.
The only problem was … they weren’t WORDS.
I distinctly remember as a child how frustrated I would get because I couldn’t quite remember exactly how I told a story while I was drawing it. I also was frustrated because it took me so long to draw the pictures, I would lose my words before I was finished.
I wanted a way to capture my stories without me needing to memorize how each one went.
And that is what drove me to teach myself to read.Living on an island far, far away are very special creatures called Happy-Faced Spiders. They brought me what I most wanted in the world. Maybe they're trying to visit you as well. Click To Tweet
I memorized a book “Old Hat, New Hat” (which is this very simple story of a cartoon character who decided to buy a new hat, so he goes to the hat store and tries on all these different hats, but then rediscovers his old one in the pile, puts it on his head, pays the shopkeeper and happily leaves with his “new” hat). I would sit there for hours, staring at the squiggle of letters and reciting what I knew they were supposed to say.
Until one day, they did.
That was when I started actually writing stories with actual words.
But, I still loved my Happy-Faced Spiders. In fact, I have quite a collection of Happy-Faced Spiders in my house, many of them courtesy of my parents.
After all, my Happy-Faced Spiders helped me start writing. They were my first words. And they brought me more words.
So, the next time you see a spider in your house, pause before killing it. Or, better yet, catch it and take it outside (which is what I always try and do). Maybe it’s actually a Happy-Faced Spider trying to bring you the very thing you want more than anything in the world.