I used to keep a diary when I was a little girl. It was blue and about the size of a 5’7” hard bound book. My private diary even had a rickety gold lock on the side because I never wanted anyone (my parents) reading my intimate thoughts (who I had a crush on at school and the list of my ever-changing best friends). I kept my diary on the floor of my bedroom closet, tucked away in the back corner, but not completely out of sight. I didn’t write regularly, and even when I did, I didn’t have a lot to say. But one day after school, I made a mistake. I left my journal wide open for any “curious” person (my dad) to read. Not known for his ability to keep a secret, my father confronted me about one of my diary entries. I called someone a bad word, and he was not happy about his daughter using profanity. If only I understood the use of asterisks at 13-years-old. Maybe I would have avoided my severe punishment of being grounded for two weeks and having to miss the upcoming school roller skating party. From that moment forward, I feared journal writing. And so I gave it up. But something happened recently that reminded my of why it can be such a beautiful thing to write your thoughts down on paper. It was a lesson that I learned from a young girl, with an amazing ability to express the thoughts that went through her mind. Although she has no idea that she taught me this lesson, because like my father, I “stumbled” upon personal words written on paper. And trust me, the discovery was amazing!

I recently spent a weekend out of town, playing the role of babysitter for a longtime friend’s two kids. The day was packed full of a trip to the local ice cream shop, games of mine craft, films of their choice (including a Marvel marathon), and all of the best movie time snacks. Bedtime went smoothly and by 10 o’clock, the house was quiet. As I was tidying up the kitchen, I went to throw away some empty potato chip bags. As I opened up the trash drawer, I saw something laying on top of the garbage very neatly. It was an 8’10” sheet of white, lined paper with handwriting in pink ink. In that moment, my instincts told me that I was looking at the Holy Grail of little girl journal entries. Yet, I didn’t feel worthy to pick it up. And so I just stared at the paper for several minutes before glancing over my shoulder to make sure that no one was watching me. I must tell you that I was feeling slightly guilty as my hand reached into the trashcan to pick up the piece of paper that was calling to me. It wasn’t crumbled up, or even hidden under the orange rinds. It was laying right on top as if to say, “Miss Andrea, you must read me!” I had to do it! I had to read this letter titled, “Things I Need To Know.” The letter was written in question and answer form. And every word was gratifying and precious.

Question #1:

Q: How do you get a cute boy to love you?

A: You follow him around until he gets tired of it so then he will have to love you back.

Amazing! Right? I laughed when I read it and couldn’t help but think, “Oh honey, women are still trying to figure out the answer to that question 30 years later.”

Question #2… this one made me blush (and then take a sigh of relief).

Q: How to you get a cute boy to kiss you?

A: I don’t know!!!!!!!!!

Yes, her response did include that many exclamation points! And I knew her parents would be thankful for that answer. No need to rush things during the tween years (or for another 10 or 20 as far as her father is concerned).

Question #3 took a completely different tone…

Q: How do you get a gum ball machine?

A: Save up money for a long time and then you can get it.

I liked where this was going. A child who understands the value of money. So now that we’ve tried to figure out boys and gum ball machines, what could be next?

Question #4:

Q: How do you become a mermaid?

A: You need water, sand, salt, a bath, and your own …

Your own what?? I couldn’t make out the last word! For the love of God, what else do we need to become a mermaid??? I couldn’t ask her because she threw the letter away. She didn’t give it to me, I stole it from the trash. But now I need to know what a creative young girl thought we needed to become a mermaid! Her spelling didn’t resemble a word that looked like “tail” or “fish.” I couldn’t figure out her full answer no matter how long I stared at the paper. I didn’t want to give up solving the “how to be a mermaid” puzzle. But eventually, I came to a realization. For now, the real answer only existed in one place… the best place… her imagination.

There were other wonderful questions on the paper. None of the other questions had answers. That’s so true of life at any age, isn’t it? We’re curious people. We always have questions. And sometimes, we don’t have the answers. Not having answers to our questions can be frustrating. We don’t want to have a blank page. We want to fill up our pages with knowledge, and information; with dreams, and plans to execute our goals; with happiness and joy. We want to bring our imagination to life. This inquisitive little girl taught me that the best way to start is by writing down “things you need to know.” The answers will come in time. And if they don’t, move on to the next question.