We all get our "start" somewhere. And from such humble beginnings, something just might grow. It might just be the growth that will set the world on fire! That's what we expected of ourselves when we were children. Or it might be a smaller blaze, lighting just a our corner of the world. I'm not sure yet where my fire will lead, but I know where it started - with my Great Aunt Essie. Let me introduce you.
Aunt Essie was my grandfather's older sister - older by 8 or 10 years, as I recall. She told me about her memory of my Grandpa's birth once in a letter - but I'm getting ahead of myself. This is a picture of her was taken almost half a century ago. YIKES! How can that be true? But that is my baby sister sitting next to her, and she is no longer a baby! This picture actually says very little about my aunt, except that chronologically, her age exceeded mine by LOTS. But, you see, she was always young to me.
I don't know when or how or why, but we became pen pals - somewhere about the time I learned to hold a pen. She would faithfully reply to the letters I sent her - or was it the other way around? Maybe I responded to the letters she sent? Whichever the direction, I just remember going to the mailbox hoping for a letter addressed to ME. And on a regular basis, when it arrived, it had Aunt Essie's address in the upper left corner. She always understood what it meant to be a little girl wanting to be a big girl. She never talked down to me or corrected me, or if she did, it was so gently that it just felt like love. And I loved her, and my heart still holds her memory with the tenderness and tenacity of a mama's bear cub.
I sent her a story once. Maybe it was the first one I ever wrote. Certainly it was the first I felt confident enough in to share with this woman who loved me - and who showed it with postage stamps (SWAK - remember that?)! My first literary classic was called Fat Mr. Raindrop. Now, I know I have you on the edge of your seats wondering just what made Mr. Raindrop such a captivating figure. I hate to disappoint you, but I have absolutely no memory of the plot (if, indeed, there was one). What I remember was Aunt Essie's accolades. They spurred me on! And if the book I'm now writing (Soggy Red Confetti) ever gets a cover (fingers crossed for this fall), a big part of the credit will go to my first fan, Great Aunt Essie.
Has anyone else noticed that I haven't mentioned grandloves yet? That's about to change.
About a month ago, Aidan came running up to me telling me he wrote something for me. He was so excited! And my heart was skipping merrily along with him, too! His story said, "From Aidan. We are having a party. I love you, Grandma." (He misspelled my name, but I will love and forgive a 5 year old for that.) So this Granma wrote him back - and he drew a picture for me - and I wrote him back - and - well, you probably have a good idea of the way things are progressing.
I hope that Aidan (and his brothers) learns to love the anticipation of the mailman like I did. I hope he trudges back from the mailbox when it is more barren than he wished. And I hope he floats back when he finds a card that bears his name. I hope he tells me stories - words written in just such a way to bring light and love to literature. And maybe, just maybe, someday, he will tell me his story of an overweight drop of water - or some other protagonist of grandlove renown.
And in that moment, I will thank my Great Aunt Essie. Her faith was well placed and well nurtured and so much more appreciated than I ever knew how to say - until now. Much love, sweet lady, and much appreciation. I love you, still.