“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find,
knock and it will be opened to you.”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
My maternal grandmother, Vera Hawley McMurrin, lived about a mile away from me, when I was a kid, and was a whiz at math and English. As a young woman, she had been the bookkeeper for her father’s company, The Los Angeles Rock and Gravel Company, founded in 1914. That is also where she met my grandfather, Rulon, in 1916.
Grama, as we called her, was a highly accomplished painter and sculptor too, but where she really excelled was being the best grandmother on the planet. Everyone adored her. She was grandmother even to my cousins on my dad’s side of the family. She personified love and kindness.
When any of us cousins argued with each other, I remember her saying gently, “Now, don’t quarrel,” and somehow that antiquated phrase settled us down. Maybe I should try that on my kids.
Grama lived next door to my aunt and uncle, and often I dropped in to visit her. I remember knocking on her door one day, when I was nine or ten. She answered the door and asked me out of the blue what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without hesitation, I answered, “A writer.” I was as surprised as she at that reply, as I had no idea that I was going to say that, but, in retrospect, I kind of liked the sound of it.
Most of my reading, up to that point, had been comic books, song lyrics and Hardy Boys mysteries. I didn’t give writing much thought after that conversation with Grama, but when I became an English major, I really fell in love with words and books.
I liked that you could say the same thing a thousand different ways. Unlike math, which had only one right answer, words had infinite right answers and possibilities, and I was hooked.
Still, I didn’t consider myself to be a writer, because, as an English major, mostly you read and write about the works and lives of other writers. I thought of writing only in terms of literature, in other words, fiction, and felt no inspiration to write a novel.
But that is when I really learned how to think and communicate verbally and in written form. You could say, I also learned that from being the second youngest of ten cousins. The only way I was going to get my way with most of them was to talk them into it, by using words, not physical power.
Years later, having become a father, our son John asked for bedtime stories, and I began to tell the stories of my life and family. Telling those stories brought out the writer in me. I have the joy of my family to thank for that, from my grandparents through to my children, and, looking forward, to my hoped-for grandchildren.
My grandmother sowed many seeds of love and purpose in me. I will always be grateful for that and for her faith in me.