Samantha’s Origins: Part I
She’s newly five-years-old in the grainy home video but still there’s no mistaking her, holding court at her birthday party among a dozen of her friends.
The festivities have reached an inflection point. Through the sliding glass door, the camera catches a glimpse of Misty the Pony being led away by her owner, off to another party and another performance. The planned portion of the day is over, and parents pass through the frame on the way to the kitchen, leaving the kids to play.
Most of the kindergartners are content to idle there, in the hallway. Three have their fingers knuckle-deep in their noses. Not the birthday girl, though. Someone needs to keep order.
“All right,” she says. “There’s an hour left until the party is over. We can either play tag in the backyard or hide-and-seek inside. Or, we can pretend to be horses.”
The tape ends there, just as the other kids turn to regard the smaller girl. Those last frames show that they now realize that this is serious business. Their leader is kind, but firm. She is direct but she is patient. There’s nothing unpleasant about her drive.
I had already had a story in mind when I saw the video a few years ago–a girl accompanying her uncle on an archaeological excavation in Peru. But now, I had my main character. Other influences came in as I wrote her–my nieces, my friends (both female and male), my sisters — markedly — and part of myself. But it was watching the film of my wife as a youngster (as she sat beside me, a little embarrassed) that gave Samantha her serious, disciplined core.