Every summer I visit my parents, sister, family and friends for a week, or two, or three. Part of the reason lies in the fact that I live nearly 3 hours away from my hometown and I miss the people who made me who I am. It’s also because I want my daughter to know her grandparents and aunt and where her momma comes from. Summer vacations and breaks from school are our only opportunities for these kinds of visits.
The other day a fellow author was talking about having shady places, where you can take rest, away from the sun, the world, from life. Cozy alcoves. My mom and I were talking about it and I realized my hometown is one of my “shady” places. It’s where I come to recharge, to decompress and gather my thoughts. Without it, I might lose touch with who I am because this is the place that molded me, that nurtured my writerly roots.
As I’ve pondered over this the past few days, I’ve found myself feeling more inspired and emotional about my childhood home, my memories and the woman I’ve become. I’ve slept in my old bedroom in a small twin size bed. Its not the bed I had—mine had an old faux brass headboard that jingled when the screws wiggled loose and I always kept a screwdriver nearby because the rattling every time I turned over in my sleep annoyed me, but it’s still reminiscent of my youth. The dark plum walls I painted are still there along with the sponged-on white ivy pattern. My mom insisted on painting in my room years ago while I was at work one day because she hated how dark the walls were so she did the two opposite walls with an ivy patterned paint roller.
The room looks tiny now, with all the shelving and cabinets my dad built and put in there after I moved out. He stores eBay items he plans to sell, shipping boxes and my mom’s sewing machine and bookcases and lots of other bits and pieces. It’s a “junk room” now, a catch-all, and I lay on that tiny bed, staring at the flowery white plaster pattern on the ceiling, letting my mind wander over the past decade since I left and further back in time.
I've known I wanted to be a writer from around 10 or 11 years old, playing with an old upright Royal typewriter in our basement on hot summer afternoons pretending to work for a newspaper as a reporter, or handwriting my "high school sweethearts happily-ever-after" stories and illustrating them in pencil and crayon or colored pencils.
I wrote a lot of angst-riddled (horribly embarrassing) poetry in my teens and I remember staying up late on weekends, scribbling short stories and the beginnings of YA novels in Lisa Frank notebooks on pastel pink and blue colored pages. My parents got me a Smith Corona typewriter/word processor and 3 1/2 inch floppies for Christmas the year I was 17. That was also the year they gave me "The Romance Writer's Pink Pages" and a package of typing paper and a good long talk from my logical dad about how "hard" it is to be a writer. I remember him sitting on the end of my bed beside me, extolling the facts that I might not ever be able to do it for a living without a backup plan and a regular day job and that not everyone can break into the business, just like artists and singers...it's lofty and inspiring, but not always practical.
That room was my world for years- my safe haven, my Fortress of Solitude- I learned and grew in that room and I cut my teeth on writing in that room. It was my shade for a majority of my life.
And it’s funny though that I talk about shade from the “sun”—
I awoke the other morning with a thought when I saw it was daylight already- how I still remember the bright golden sunlight beaming through my back bedroom window on summer mornings. Even now, I felt the salutation of its warmth soaking into the room, into my being. It made me smile to think the sun still remembers me here and still greets me just the same, even when hidden from it. But then, the shadow and light know me here- know that writing is at the heart of me, that poetic words reside within me and that it’s one of the things that define who I truly am.