Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It Was Always In The Cards

by Janis Patterson


Do you ever feel that your destiny was foretold when you were still a child?

As a child I loved to read. My parents don’t know when I started reading, but they said I could read them stories from the Saturday Evening Post (remember that?) when I was around three. I can remember liking to read more than anything and my mother telling me to do something else because I’d ruin my eyes. Which is probably true – I’ve worn glasses since before starting school at six, and have been blind as the proverbial bat (nearsighted) all my life.

The only thing was, most of the year she couldn’t tell me to go outside and play. Where we lived then was bitterly cold and during the winter the snow was several inches above my curly blonde locks. (Neither the curliness nor the whitish blonde color survived my childhood – darn it!)

So, when my books were temporarily removed, I had to think of something to do. Mother had no objection to my playing solitaire, which my dad had taught me, so I would take the shabby deck that was ‘my cards’ and sit in the floor to play. I didn’t play traditional solitaire, though, despite the fact I knew how to quite well. Instead I made up stories.

The king of spades was the villain and his queen was somewhere along the lines of the Wicked Queen in the Snow White movie. (The sequence of her cursing Snow White on top of the dark mountain while the lightning plays around her was one of the very few things that has ever frightened me – still can, as a matter of fact.) The royal spades wanted the four of hearts – the delicate, gentle heroine, who was me, of course – to marry their slimy nephew, the seven of spades, but she was tenderly in love with a perfect young man, the five of hearts.

The king and queen of hearts were her good-natured but ineffectual parents (now I wonder if by that reasoning young four might be too closely related to the five of hearts for comfort, but at the time I was too young to think of that sort of thing). The king and queen of clubs were rulers of a nearby country who were related to the spades but didn’t like them. I don’t remember where the king and queen of diamonds nor any of the jacks or aces fit in; they had to be around, but didn’t seem to have played substantial roles in any of my scenarios. All the other cards were either servants or courtiers and seemed pretty much interchangeable as the story needed them.

I would sit for hours and play my ‘solitaire’ and my mother was happy because I wasn’t ruining my eyes by reading. What neither one of us realized at the time was that I was writing. Without words or paper (that came the following summer, when at four I wrote my first ‘book’) but still I was creating a storyline with crudely delineated characters and definite action. Apparently some of us are just cursed from birth with their future.


And I still like the spades the least of any suit in the deck. 

7 comments:

Barb Schlichting said...

Susan, what an imagination that you have! Waiting is sure in your blood, and, to think, it all started because of being "blind as a bat". But you could see clearer than anyone with your fabulous stories. You're wonderful. Keep up the writing and storytelling for I love them all. Barb Schlichting

Susan said...

Thank you, Barb! Waking up to your kind words is a simply splendid way to start the day! And you keep writing too - I can't wait to read the next First Lady mystery!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Janis,

We have a lot in common. I also began reading early, am myopic, and had a mother who worried that I was hurting my eyes by reading so much. I too started writing early. Great minds think alike!

Earl Staggs said...


Very interesting. You wrote your first book when you were four? Gee, I was a slow starter. I didn't write my first book until I was fourteen. The story was set in a jungle with identical twin brothers who were great white hunters and in love with the same girl. I wish I knew whatever happened to that epic manuscript. I think it would be a best seller.

Sandy Cody said...

Love, love, love this. It made me laugh and nod in recognition. My earliest stories were composed while I was soaring high in the swing my dad made for me in a huge catalpa tree in our yard. There's something about the wind in one's hair that encourages the imagination. Thanks for the reminder of those first ventures into storytelling.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm getting lazy in my old age. I still love to read but it seems I keep inventing roadblocks instead of getting my WIP finished.

E. Ayers said...

Ah, the things we did to stay occupied back then. Today the kids are handed a tablet or a phone loaded with games and that's what they do. No imagination, they don't need it! We might be raising a generation with fabulous eye-hand coordination, but where are the artists, the writers, and those who need that spark nurtured?