Heroines (real life edition)

The more you do, the more you’ll want to do.
-Erma Pesci Carrasco (aka Mom)

December ninth can be a hard day for me. I remember being fourteen years old, my dad waking me, and not understanding why he wouldn’t let me get out of bed. Then it sunk in. Mom was gone. The cancer won. Dad wouldn’t let me go to school, though I wanted to. He went to work, and , as I found out later, did not inform coworkers why that day was different at the time.  I spent part of the day at home with a family friend, then the rest with a neighbor.

December ninth is also the birthday of a favorite aunt (family friend sort, not parent’s blood sibling sort,) who served as second mom at key points in my teenage years, and who greatly influenced my choice of career and genre. I always wondered if it dampened her birthday celebrations in later years, that her special day was also the day she lost one of her dearest friends, but could never bring myself to ask. This year is the first Aunt’s Birthday after Aunt’s own passing, and anniversaries like this are…interesting.

My mother never got to read any of my books, though I like to think she would have. She never got to know I would write articles and blog posts (or know what a  blog was) or teach workshops.  Since my first exposure to the historical romance genre came from stealing the books from her nightstand and sorting through the books her sister, my Aunt Lucy, brought her, I suspect she would not have any issues with my choice of genre. I never got the chance to find out what Mom’s favorite settings, tropes, plots or authors were, but I do remember that, every time Aunt Lucy visited, there was a grocery bag full of big, thick historical paperbacks with art that captivated me, and back cover blurbs that fired my imagination. All that adventure, all that history, and all those happily ever afters…pure bliss in a brown paper bag. That hasn’t changed.

My aunt had read at least some of my writing, though I’m not sure how much, and her advice remains invaluable. She gave me books to read, letting me know which were the good ones, and was firm but fair with her input on my own writing. I remember, as a teen, that her advice to live life first before attempting to write about it, irritated me, but, all these years later, yes, she was right. I’ve lived. Some of the stuff, I would have rather skipped over, but it really is all grist for the mill.

From an early age, Mom’s publicity pictures, and a newspaper write up or two, preserved in a scrapbook, dazzled me. There was a long while when the fact that I got kicked out of robe choir, in front of the whole class, for having “a bad voice,” (teacher’s own words, sadly; I remember those, too) or the endless wait to see when her bone structure would make itself known in my own face vexed me greatly. My dad confirmed that I was adopted when I was twenty-two, but I’d figured it out by then.

I am, however, Mom’s daughter, and Aunt’s niece, without a doubt. Every year, at Christmas, I channel Aunt in a way that still gives me the heebie jeebies. This year, I may go all out and bust out the Robert Burns grace even if we end up ordering Chinese delivery for Christmas dinner. The decorations, the way presents are organized, that’s all Aunt, and, at this stage of the game, I think it’s safe to say those things are going to stick.

As will the advice Mom gave me, driving me to elementary school one day. I don’t remember the time of year, though I want to say it was spring. I wanted to stay home sick, and she didn’t think it was needed. As one who works from home now, myself, I do understand the need for a peaceful workspace and the room to breathe when the others have left for the day.

I was still fairly young, as I was in the back seat, and still angling to get my way. This was a short day (we had one of those a week, I think, at that time of year) and Mom remained firm. I didn’t even have to do a full day, only a shortened one, and I’d be fine once I got going. “The more you do, the more you’ll want to do,” she told me as we pulled into the parking lot, and, at the time, those words were the last thing I wanted to hear. She was right, of course, and, if saying it here counts, yes, Mom, I get it. I don’t remember anything about that day, but I obviously made it through.

Sometimes, especially on tough days, it’s tempting to say “nope” and retreat. Some days, that’s needed. Other times, though, the best thing to do is get dressed, get out of the house, and go do the work. Show up. Open the file. Change seat if needed. Put something down on the page and make it pretty later. I think Mom and Aunt would both approve of that.





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