You can sit down to a writing prompt and go to all sorts of fun and weird places. Recently, a friend sent me this prompt: “Write about an early memory of faith, religion, or spirituality. This can be yours, or that of one of your characters.”
My first thought was ugh, now I have to get all personal and deep. But then I remembered the toilet paper.
My dad always bought in bulk for his newspaper office, and one day this massive package of toilet paper arrived. This was long before Costco and bulk buying for the average citizen. All of that toilet paper in the back corner of my dad’s office was as good as a circus side-show to me and my friends. (I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade.) No one in my small town had ever seen so much toilet paper in one place outside of the Vasey Brothers grocery store.
Looking back, it’s possible my dad had misordered for his small company.
But for me, it was a sign from Jesus. I went to church with my family every Sunday. I knew that if something extraordinary appeared in your life, that meant that God had a hand in it. Not just God, but Jesus, who actually came down to earth and dealt with people.
So I started thinking about why Jesus could possibly have brought all of that toilet paper into my life.
At the time I was a huge fan of the Superman real life adventure series. The one where a broad-shouldered man in a cape jumped off tall buildings and flew through the air. (One of the worst disappointments in my young life was that our small town didn’t have a phone booth.)
My best friends at the time were Cathy and Christy M., identical twins who loved fooling people by trading places. (One of my claims to fame was that I could always tell them apart.) We spent every day after school together, either at their house or at my dad’s workplace.
I decided that all three of us would become superheroes. We would jump off the top of buildings, just like Superman, and fly around and save people. Working for Jesus was somehow muddled into the plan, although the details were sketchy.
The first thing we needed to do was open the gigantic package of toilet paper and spread the rolls on the ground below the roof of my dad’s building, just in case we needed a couple of tries at flying.
Maybe at the back of my mind there was a worry that I didn’t have the kind of superpowers that enabled me to fly. Maybe not. I’d been recently experimenting by jumping off the couch onto pillows. Every fifth time or so it did feel like I was getting extra lift, maybe from Jesus, before I crash-landed.
I was sure that all of that toilet paper was a sign that I would finally get to fly. All I needed to do was convince the M. twins to jump off the roof with me.
“That just won’t work.” Christy was always the spokesgirl when they disagreed with one of my plans. Cathy wasn’t quite as eloquent.
“But we have to try,” I said. “For Jesus.”
“We’re not jumping off the roof.” Christy crossed her arms and got a hard look in her eyes. She wasn’t budging.
This was the beginning of the end. About a year later I was no longer best friends with the M. twins.
They decided to find a best friend or friends who were a little bit more grounded in reality.
I remember exactly where I was was standing, next to that wall of toilet paper of course, when Christy turned me down. And I remember the shock of discovering that three kids who believed in Jesus could have such differing opinions on how to proceed.
So maybe my brief almost-stint as a toilet paper superhero was a bit personal and deep after all.
Your turn. Where will this prompt take you?
“Write about an early memory of faith, religion, or spirituality. This can be yours, or that of one of your characters.”