Personal Essays and Short Nonfiction Stories

by Skip Van Lenten

Writing in not my profession, reminiscing about growing up in New Jersey in the 50’s and 60’s seems to be, since most of the stories I have written are about that experience. I graduated from Monmouth University when it was still a college, and earned my B.A. in English. If “life experience” is any measure, the impact of my early years had more of an influence on my writing than anything I learned in school, but I can safely say that now I am almost always “grammatically correct” telling about it. If you're into nostalgia, and looking back at the “good old days,” click on any of the links below, and I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed writing and re-living them.


A Dog Story

    Psychologists say that a person's earliest recollection can sometimes be linked to the way they perceive the world as adults. Looking back on my own life, I can recall a bright spring morning, when my mother took my hand and walked me down our driveway, between an old black car and the side of the house, to see our first dog, Daisy. More


A Little Adventure

    When I was younger, my favorite books were always about sea voyages and shipwrecks. I enjoyed reading stories about people who were stranded on remote islands, or stuck on life rafts, and then rescued. I also read all of the major accounts of solo voyages around the world, and I think one of the reasons why I was so fascinated by these stories is that my father had an old wooden boat, a seaworthy 32 footer, and every once in a while we would take it out into the Atlantic, just off the coast of Point Pleasant, and fish for fluke or blues. More


The Radio

     There must be some truth to the old saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." The other day, my son brought home a pair of speakers that one of our neighbors had put out on the curb for garbage, and I have to admit that I had my eye on them too. More


The Boat

     I have several violins that were handed down to me by my father. He enjoyed playing them, but was not very good. The only reason I can get away with saying that is because I enjoy playing too, and I am even worse. It is a difficult instrument to master. More


Welcome Home

    My son came home from California to visit us just before the holidays. Our gift to him was his air fare, and because we were going to celebrate Christmas a week early, we were able to book a round-trip flight for a reasonable price. He was delayed for the return trip, however, and we had to re-book it for the following day, at three times the initial cost. Being one day closer to Christmas was enough to make that much of a difference. More


Little Big Books

     When I was growing up, I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, and my mother would come in almost every night and read us a bedtime story. Sometimes, she would sit on my sister’s bed, and sometimes she would sit on mine, and read out loud to both of us, but as I got a little older, she started teaching me to read by myself. If I had trouble, she would point to a word and tell me to “sound it out,” and eventually I learned to get through a whole sentence without stumbling. More


Minnesota Nights

    I bought my first telescope when I was 12 years old. I had saved up enough money delivering newspapers to buy a Criterion 4 inch reflector, known as a “Dynascope,” and it opened up the universe to me. I was able to view distant galaxies and nebulae, and double stars that otherwise appear as one, and spent many hours exploring the night sky. I had a star map to locate various objects, and a small pocket guide to look up new things while I stood out on my front lawn. More


The Parade

     Before I moved back to my hometown in New Jersey in 1998, I lived in the small town of Kent, Connecticut. It reminded me of what it was like to grow up in New Jersey in the 50's, when it was still a rural area, and maybe that's why I had chosen to live there in the first place. There was one traffic light at the main intersection, a few stores on Main Street, and the pace of life and the surrounding woods made me feel right at home. More


Additional story links:

Learn to Draw
The Bike Trip
Charles Atlas
My Father's Violin
The Trade
A Dog Story
Mr. Stewart's TV


All material Copyright 2014 Skip Van Lenten

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