Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Small Piece of my Childhood Died Today

When I was in seventh grade, I spent a glorious two months living with my Grandparents, Porter and Lydia Merrill in tiny Duchesne Utah. I bet you'd have an easier time guessing the pronunciation and spelling of Duchesne than where it lies in Utah - I'll make it easy for you - it's in the Great Basin. Thank You. * I moved from being a middle child of nine kids, to being the only child in the household, a difference for me, to be sure (What? You want to know where I am all the time? And you know exactly who made any mess in the house?).

The only real memory I have of English class during that time was a story our teacher showed us, and then the subsequent writing assignment we had. She showed us the picture book, The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, a book with fourteen illustrations, each with a title and line of text, but no more. She read us the introduction, of a book publisher Mr. Wenders, who received a visit from a man calling himself Harry Burdick, who had written fourteen short stories, and who showed him these fourteen pictures he had drawn to accompany them. Harry Burdick left the drawings, and said he would be back the next day with the stories, but he never returned. Many years passed, and now they decided to publish just the pictures.

We each had to pick one of the fourteen drawings, and write a short story about it, and the short story I wrote (based on the harp drawing) captured my imagination. It stretched twenty pages long, and that was just the beginning - I never even reached the pivotal moment of the story. It was the stuff of high fantasy, of quests, a dryad turned into a harp, a young man searching for...something. Yes, it was original - for a seventh grader, and I loved that story. I used to tell pieces of it to Halley, my younger sister as we were roommates. I even have on tape one session I recorded. I dreamed of that story, of the world, of the theology - Sun god, Moon goddess. And through the years, I forgot the name of the book, but I never forgot that sad story - what happened to the poor man? Did he die? Is that why he never came back? Did he just like confusing people? One of life's great mysteries, right there. So many years had passed, I've even wondered if I had made up the back story, or remembered it wrong, it was so mysterious.

Until today, when on a blog I saw the book referenced. I had found it! There it was - The Mysteries of Harry Burdick. I read the top review, and wait for it, so that your childhood can die too, the reviewer said, "The introductory story, I should probably point out, is utterly false. But it gives some nice context to the images that follow..." (found from the link at the top of the page). What? What?? WHAT????? Utterly false? And that is when my Childhood died. I feel deluded and denuded and maybe derided, but that's just because it makes a nice triune of adjectives.

All these years, I had worried about Harry Burdick, even if I couldn't remember his name, and there was no Harry Burdick. He never died a tragic death, on the verge of fame and fortune. There were no lost stories, just waiting to be found someday. This is like when I read The Princess Bride for the first time, but I have a thing against abridged books, so I off to the library I promptly went, and spent a long a fruitless search looking for books by S. Morgenstern. Only I feel more tragic now, since I spent 16 years hanging from a lie. Given, in both cases of the Princess Bride and The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, if I had ever given a thought to the fact that they had author bylines not by the purported author I might not have struggled quite so much.

*What, that didn't help? It's about two hours east of Salt Lake, on the road to Vernal, which is in uttermost eastern Utah, and another hour beyond Duchesne (said, Doo-Shane).


  1. I am sorry about the death of your childhood. It was entertaining to read about it, though. You should write more! :-)

  2. Great post! That was interesting.I like your quality that you put into your post.Please do continue with more like this.

    - Marx of web design

  3. Stumbled across your post the other day via the "Next Blog" button on blogger, and I'm addicted!

    Love your writing style, love your stories, and LOVE what's written of your love story (yep, read all 10 installments in one morning. Don't judge!)

  4. Wow, Thora. I'm totally jealous of your randndom and addicted readers. I want some. And to praise my voice, because I secretly praise myself.
    But anyway, I had similar feelings when I first read The Princess Bride. I didn't go try to look it up in the library, but I was pretty sure it was probably there. Actually, I think the first time I tried to read it I skipped the introduction, forward, or whatever it called itself, not knowing that it was actually half the story.
    And yes, I do know where Doo-chez-ney is, even before you said so.

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