I can see it so clearly. Seventh grade, an early afternoon right after lunch. Tired and ready to go home, 30 students had taken their seats in the last class of the day. And sitting towards the back of the classroom in a wooden desk, was a 12 year old me.
I was excited for class that day. We were reading Greek mythology, my favorite subject. And even better, we would be receiving the topic for our presentations. Our papers and presentations would be due the next week. I couldn’t wait to see mine. I just knew I was getting something exciting.
I sat anxiously in my desk, watching as the teacher circulated the room. She placed a sheet of paper face down on every student’s desk, the name of their topic written on the paper in purple marker. Smiling, the teacher caught my eye as she placed my sheet down. I smiled back, looking happily at my paper. Surely that was a good sign. I tried to see what my paper said, but it was impossible to read the writing. I sat back and waited. Once she was finished, she motioned for us to lift our papers and see our topics. I lifted my paper and looked down at my topic, a big smile on my face.
“Hestia.” The smile faded. I read the name quietly. Hestia? The goddess of the hearth and home? The name stared back at me. I looked back up at the teacher, who was smiling distractedly around the room. I looked at my classmates, who were all happily comparing topics.
“Hercules.” Said the boy next to me.
“I got Aphrodite.” The girl next to me, Jessica, giggled. “I knew I would get Aphrodite.”
“Artemis!” Her best friend, Brittany, exclaimed. “She’s the goddess of the moon!”
“Who did you get, Winter?” Brittany asked. I tried to smile.
“Hestia,” I answered. “She’s great.”
“Hestia?” Brittany wrinkled her nose. “She’s boring. Sorry.”
“No she’s not!” I answered defensively, she’s really exciting!”
“Yeah right.” Brittany and turned back around.
I went home that day mad. I thought Hestia was boring too, and I was mad at my teacher for giving me a boring goddess to research. Why had she done that? Did she not think I was interesting enough to do something else? Surely I could have written a great paper on Zeus, or Pegasus. Maybe Medusa, she would have been fascinating. But Hestia?
That night I researched Hestia in my world mythology book, and I didn’t find much to change my mind. Hestia was a relatively peaceful goddess with very little controversy or adventures. She was responsible for maintaining the hearth fire, and for keeping peace in the home. To my seventh grade self, this was not riveting stuff.
I had finally gone to bed, frustrated. For a while I’d stared at the ceiling, thinking about what I was going to do. Finally, right before I’d fallen asleep I’d made up my mind. Hestia may not have the most dramatic source material, but I was going to make people think that she was the most exciting goddess in all of mythology if it was the last thing I did.
That entire week I worked on my paper. Our teacher told us that if we designed a license plate for our god or goddess on construction paper we would get extra credit. I stared working on that too. I did mine on a giant sheet of poster board, and chose the brightest orange I could find.
The day of our presentation came. I sat through what felt like dozens of presentations. The girls presenting on Aphrodite and Artemis had excitedly presented their goddesses, huge smiles on their faces, sitting down to a chorus of applause. I waited for my turn. Finally, the teacher called my name. I stood up, grabbing my license plate and notes.
“Hestia,” I began. “Is the most exciting goddess in the entire Greek pantheon. I heard some laughs, but continued anyway. “She is. Do you know why?” No one answered. “I’ll tell you why. Because she carries around a bowl of fire. Do you know how cool that is?” My eyes swept around the room. “I don’t know any other goddesses that carry around fire. Would you want to mess with a woman carrying a bowl of fire?” No one answered. I kept on. “Let me tell you what else is great about Hestia.”
I presented my topic, finally coming to the end. Bending down, I lifted my poster board license plate. “Hestia is so hot, that if Hestia drove a car, this would be her license plate.” I turned it around, revealing my design.
“HOT STUFF” Screamed across the poster board in giant red fiery letters.
My teacher had laughed. And my classmates too. I wasn’t sure if they were laughing at me or with me, but I really didn’t care. I’d smiled and gone back to my seat, feeling pleased. I’d learned something about a goddess I ordinarily wouldn’t have bothered to read anything about, and the following week I found out that I’d gotten a good grade on my presentation.
Ever since that day, I’ve been really fond of Hestia. No, she’s not the goddess most likely to be featured in a gossip column, but spending all of that time researching her helped cast her in a different light. Featuring her as a main character in my book was an easy choice for me. The Hestia in my novel is strong, and resourceful, and level headed. Attributes I think that the goddess would really have possessed. I believe that you would have to, in a crazy place like Mount Olympus.
It’s wonderful how our experiences shape our writing. We all have our own unique insights, and this is what makes every person’s writing special. I think that’s why I enjoy reading so much. Reading someone’s words is like peeking through a small window, seeing a little bit of that person woven into the words. I’m grateful to every author that takes the time to share! I learn more about the world through other writers’ eyes, and maybe one day someone will see Hestia in a different way though mine. Hey, she does carry a bowl of fire.