I grew up playing in a castle. My parents were members of an organization whose headquarters was an actual castle, and as little children, my sisters and I played all over that place and ran up winding staircases and into turrets, then down again into the kitchens far below. There were secret passageways and huge chandeliers. There were tall, elegant windows with heavy draperies we could hide behind. It was our playground.

There is something so perfect and lovely about the memories I have of playing there. We may have only really been at the headquarters on five or six occasions, but the way I remember it, it was an enormous part of my childhood. Perhaps because I played there often whether we were there in person or not. I was a princess with long flowing hair and gowns and little velvet slippers. That is what I dreamed of myself.

When we visited the ocean on the West Coast for the first time, I was 13 and oh, so dramatic. I brought along a billowing skirt and a scarf because I wanted to be photographed looking out at the waves, with the wind in my hair, and my skirt and scarf fluttering in the breeze. I have always had a vivid imagination, and a poet’s heart. (I will have to see if my parents have that picture somewhere. I made them take dozens of shots to make sure one of them would come out right.)

One of the writing tasks from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg tonight was to write what is before you. She said to just write whatever you see. Ask yourself, “Where do you come from, who are you, what makes you you?” For me, that includes growing up in a castle, because that is what I feel is true, not just that I played there on a handful of occasions, but that I grew up there… That is owning whatever I want and then letting it go, as Natalie says to do. And I believe it shaped me to some degree. It has something to do with my love of the dramatic, my pension for romanticizing memories, my living in a dreamworld. Some of my favorite writers have said that they dislike living in reality. Fiction can be so much more fun.

“Own anything you want and then let it go.” What is Your Story that you want to Own?

Photo from here.

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