Whenever I try to piece together anything even slightly resembling an autobiographical sketch, I find that a lot of my remembering has to do with books: what I read (almost anything); where I read (almost anywhere); and why.
Why is the key. It has, in part, to do with being an only child, often alone.
I spent a part of every summer visiting my grandmother on the eastern shore of Virginia, where the days were long and hot and there was absolutely nothing to do. Nothing to do, that is, until I discovered the library that had been a church (open three afternoons a week, and with the fiction section two steps up, where the altar used to be), and for the off-days, my grandmother's attic (and all the books my mother and aunt had read as children). It's no wonder that that library and attic keep turning up in the things I write.
There is, after all, something to be said for aloneness, at least in my case, because it led to books. I like to think that there is a lovely distinction between aloneness and loneliness, and the real reader will rejoice in the one and never know the other.
Anyway, I read. (Well, I did other things, too: jumped rope and collected bottle caps and paper dolls.) I grew up in Baltimore, New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore again; went to college (majoring in English); and taught school (third grade and then Special Education). I got married (to a lawyer who is now a judge) and had six children (five girls and one boy) and learned to make cupcakes and Halloween costumes and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. I still read. In order to find time for reading, I had to make sure the children had something to do -- so I cultivated readers. Believe it or not, in a household of eight, we all managed to find time for a little aloneness.
But there was something else that kept prodding me: the books I hadn't written yet. Once, when I was about ten years old, I woke my mother in the middle of the night and said, "Who shall I dedicate my first book to?" And she, with great practicality, said,"Why don't you write it first." And went back to sleep.
So, when the children were old enough to make their own cupcakes and Halloween costumes, I did. I have been writing ever since and hope to keep it up for a long time to come.
The children are grown now and there are five sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and thirteen grandchildren.
There are new readers in the family to encourage, to foster.
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