My Granny lived on Galley Street, although it wasn't called Galley Street until her town required street names for 911. In the event of an emergency, Granny's street had to have a name. We had had plenty of excitement, though maybe no real emergencies, when it was just a little nameless street in Glomar Holler; but we were all pleased when the street finally earned a name. I wondered why we had never thought to give it a name earlier. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great grandparents had lived there for the better part of a century.
I remember thinking that Galley Street sounded like the name of a street where a pirate might live. I loved it. It was deceptively cozy for a place where so many adventures had begun, just a little strip of blacktop that ended in an overgrown hillside that used to lead to my grandfather's vegetable garden.
It wasn't until years later that I began to think of Galley Street as the name of a street where, not only a pirate might have lived, but where a writer visited on weekends and summer days, a street where she walked barefoot, and picked apples, and rode her bike, and ate watermelon, and played horseshoes...
It occurred to me that a galley was not only a little ship's kitchen but also a writing proof, the messy, vulnerable part of the writing...the part that has extra wide margins so others can criticize or make recommendations or comments. Galley Street was where I spent hours as a child, when the margins of my life were wide; and although I carry with me years of recommendations and comments, I have no red-penned words of criticism from Galley Street. In fact, it was a place where everything I did seemed just right. It was a place where I gained confidence, where I felt like I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I wanted to be a writer.
I loved Galley Street because it was where Granny lived. She was the first writer who lived there, although she never considered herself a writer. She loved to read and quilt and watch game shows; and she told me stories and let me sort through the pictures in the picture drawer, stopping whatever she was doing to tell a story about each picture I held. She read everything I wrote and told me how much she enjoyed it.
Even now, as a seventh grade teacher, I try to be for my students what Granny was for me. I try to make my classroom like Galley Street, where we can have adventures and write about them and listen to wonderful stories...where no one feels criticized. I encourage them to write, and I tell them how much I enjoy everything they give me to read; but I stopped writing, really writing, years ago. I got bogged down by rejection and fear, and I forgot how it felt to be confident and creative.
I realize, though, that in order to help my students become better writers, I need to write with them. I need to go back to Galley Street, where writers and pirates were always welcome.