School at Seven

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

May 3, 2014

School at SevenBlogger Lisa Reiter has launched “Bite Size Memoirs.” She writes two poignant examples of the accepted styles for the prompt which is brief.

While I’m not a memoirist, I do draw heavily upon experience to create story ideas. Memories often lead me to reflect.

For instance, my novel “Miracle of Ducks,” is based on my experiences of sharing a life with a former Army Ranger and his obsession with German Short-haired Pointers. Fictionalizing those experiences allows me to explore the realm of “what if…”

Right away I was drawn to Lisa’s challenge. I believe in the power of prompts to spark creativity; the magic of constraints to improve writing; and the joy of practicing craft with other writers. It’s like musicians who gather and just jam.

After reflecting on Lisa’s first prompt, I realized what a tumultuous time age seven was for me. I hardly remember school that year, but I have one vivid memory related to seven and school. What follows is what I mined from that memory for “Bite Size Memoir No. 1.”

School at Seven by Charli Mills

Morning, and it’s the last day of school at Sunnyslope. Not for the year. Just for me. My parents bought a store and a pink house near Lake Tahoe.

Mrs. Vineyard says I can build snowmen at recess where I’m going. It doesn’t snow in Hollister where apricots grow, planted by great-grandpa Bumpa who lives at the place smelling like hospitals.

I like Bumpa and bingo and horses. Not doctors.

Papa, drives slowly down the steep hill overlooking turkey barns and old scrap. We don’t talk about the other grandfather or why my parents are moving. It feels like it’s my fault, and misery squats on my shoulders the way blackbirds roost in eucalyptus trees. Papa stops the car. He leans over and offers me a choice of three candies. Big bars of chocolate. I choose the Baby Ruth.

Seven was not a sweet year, but I remember that clemency.

(Look for new prompts on Fridays  at Sharing the Story, and follow along on Twitter at #BiteSizeMemoir.)


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  1. Wednesday_Elf

    Nice ‘memory’. I’ve just recently become interested in the memoir style of writing and will definitely check out Lisa’s ‘Bite Size Memoirs’.

    • Charli Mills

      Lisa is going to issue a prompt every Friday. It’s a great way to practice and get comfortable with writing “memory,” and read other pieces. You can place your response in her comments if you don’t have a direct blog. Give it a go!

  2. Annecdotist

    Beautifully written poignant piece, Charli, you say a lot in those few words. As you know, I’m somewhat resistant to memoir, but might have a bash at this before Thursday.

    • Charli Mills

      Funny, Anne, I feel resistant, too. I think I felt more open to it as I realized I could still treat it creatively, though truthfully from my own memory and perspective. This is going to be a good exercise for me. Have a bash at it!

  3. Lisa Reiter

    So evocative of a child’s perspective, Charli. The smells and our associations with visiting people in care and also how a seven year old ends up feeling responsible for bad or sad things especially when the grown-up don’t talk about them. Thank you so much for being so quick off the mark. I should expect nothing less of my favourite buckaroo but it’s great you’re my ‘first’ ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for your insights and for providing the challenge! Happy to be your favorite buckaroo! And “edit” made…no problem!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for the encouragement. We’ll see where this leads. 🙂

  4. Christian

    I too draw from memories of yesterday when I think of things to write about. And yes … school when we were kids could be a great source especially when touching on innocence and childhood naughtiness.

    • Charli Mills

      Right? It was rather easy to slip into that younger frame of mind. And yes, I remember the naughtiness, too like pranks we played on our teachers!

  5. Norah

    A very poignant piece, Charli, charged with lots of emotion. I particularly like the imagery in “misery squats on my shoulders the way blackbirds roost in eucalyptus trees”. Very evocative; and so sad for a seven-year old to feel such heartache.

    • Charli Mills

      It was a tough time, but I will always remember Papa letting me choose a candy bar.

      • Norah

        You always remember the important things in life! Maybe life really is like a chocolate bar!

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