In Grade 4, I was Sheila the Great.
I’m not kidding.
Despite my fuzzy hair and brown skin, I was convinced you had me in mind when you wrote the novel.
I was also Margaret and Tony and Peter.
I started a newspaper at my school in grade 4 because of your books. I dreamed of being a writer because of your books.
And because at first I wasn’t sure how to do that, some of my earliest writings are letters to my grandmother that were copied almost verbatim from various pages of your novels.
Yes, I plagiarized you at the age of 10.
But I’m not sorry because those letters were never sent and 30 years later, my mother delivered them to me along with a host of other childhood silliness and the joy and tears that resulted from reading my words – your words- are worth any sanctions you may have to take.
What you gave me was a gift; an outlet.
I was a first generation Canadian kid with Jamaican parents trying to find my way through the school system. I didn’t understand cliques or bras. I didn’t know what questions to ask until you came along.
You gave me a guideline to being normally abnormal that has guided the rest of my life.
When my mother bought me “Letters to Judy: What your kids wish they could tell you.” I was insanely jealous of the fact that these kids had written to you and that you were responding.
I was far too in awe to have thought of sending my thoughts as well.
So now that I have the chance here’s what I’d like to thank you for:
Are you There God It’s me Margaret : It led to an awkward conversation between a father and daughter when I snuck up behind him to ask what a “period” was and “how I could get one.” Good times.
Forever: The sneaky way you didn’t announce that this book wasn’t like the others, allowing me a full fifteen minutes of jaw-on-the-ground reading heaven before my mother came bounding up the stairs after getting a tip off from another parent. I’d also like to thank my mom for always hiding the “not until you’re older” book in the same spot allowing me to continue my reading on the sly.
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing: For giving me insight into the world of a boy, giving me something great I can share with my sons so they can get to know you too and siding with me in the acknowledgment that baby brothers were put on this earth to test your sanity.
Thank you for Iggie’s House that had a character that looked like me, and for Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Blubber, Then Again Maybe I won’t, Tiger Eyes and all the others that kept me up way past my bedtime, flashlight in hand.
All those years ago when I thought there was no one who understood me, you popped in with characters that have stayed with me my entire life.
I’m so glad to have the chance to finally write the letter I couldn’t all those years ago.
aka Sheila the Great
Heather Greenwood Davis is an award-winning feature writer with more than 20 years of journalism experience. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications including most recently the June issue of "O" The Oprah Winfrey Magazine. A yearlong trip around the world last year with her husband and two sons (ages 6 and 8) led to the family being named National Geographic Traveler Magazine "Travelers of the Year." Stories of their travels and lessons learned also appear online at www.globetrottingmama.com.
Heather thanked US for the chance to purge her soul, but we couldn't be more grateful to her for sharing her memories of growing up with Judy Blume. I couldn't be more grateful that she permitted me to share it with you as a guest post on my blog, and it ain't over, folks! We welcome you to do the same or to participate via your own blog! UPDATE: Find out everything you need to know to participate ON THE #JudyBlumeProject PAGE!!
Copyright © 2013 Heather Greenwood Davis. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the author.