Detour

Right now, by body is ensconced in my pillow pile, Irish fisherman afghan, knitted by Housemate, in my lap, notebook and early birthday present (also from Housemate) in front of me. My mind, however, gave me a jaunty salute as soon as I started swatching the pens, and hopped into the wayback machine.

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Do I blame the pens, or thank them?

Since I swatch in color wheel order, the mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain runs through the back of my mind. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet; it’s a pattern that stays the same, no matter what form the colors take. I’m still not entirely sure where brown fits in. Sometimes, I treat it like a dark yellow, sometimes it does its own thing between purple and black, or hangs out with other neutrals. Putting pens in color order sets the story part of my brain on the back burner, where, like the brown pen, it does its own thing. Swatching leads to putting actual English words on the page. Enough of that, and the words start to take on some semblance of content.

Today, working my way through the warm colors, my brain gave me a jaunty salute and trotted off toward the wayback machine. This time, it wasn’t Georgian England it headed toward, but Upper Shad Road, in Pound Ridge, New York, coughty-cough decades ago. Our family only lived there for one year, but my mother and I, sometimes my Aunt Lola, and I, wit or without our two dogs, too many a walk along that road, with the autumn leaves all around us, the air crisp, and only the occasional car zipping its way by us.

Back then, I was too young to take the walk by myself, so there always had to be an adult with me, and, especially if the dogs (one purebred German Shepherd, Schatze, and one beagel-y sort of mix, Spike) were going, no way was I going to turn down the chance to take that walk. My mom trained both dogs to sit quietly behind her, on the side of the road, whenever she said the word, “car,” and they were 100% on that, only standing again when she told them, “okay.”

The route was always the same, from our house, to the end of the road, or, if we were feeling adventurous, around the corner, to see a house under construction, and then on to Scott’s Corners, which had the local grocery store, and a couple of other shops. If it was Aunt Lola with me, then it was a sure deal that I was going to come back with a special treat. The very best of those was when I’d make the return trip with a brand new comic book tucked inside my jacket.

That is, I think I had it tucked inside my jacket. I was too young for a purse, and though my aunt or mom would have had theirs, I remember carrying my own stuff, so if it wasn’t in my jacket, it was in a bag from the store. Either way, the way I carried it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the way that I felt, on those walks.

Spending time outside, in the crisp autumn air, in the glorious riot of reds, oranges and yellows, the browns of trees and grass and dirt, the smell of happy, healthy dogs, the feel of their excitement to exist, period, and spending one on one time with my mom or aunt, were wonderful, of course, and stick with me even now. What stands out even more, though, is the feeling of that new comic, next to my heart, figuratively, if not literally, my mind whirling with the possibilities that lay within those pages., between two glossy covers.

Back then, I was super into Wonder Woman, so most of them were probably that, though I also liked the whole Batman family, and the Christmas/holiday season could not truly begin, before Aunt Lola bought me whatever Christmas edition of one of the Archie comics we could find. This was never outright stated, by either of us, but there are things that an eleven-year-old knows in the marrow of their bones.

There are things, as well, that a grown up writer knows in the marrow of her bones. Things we may not say aloud, or ever discuss with anybody else, but are true as true as true as true. Maybe that’s why they don’t need to be discussed, or put into real English (or Spanish, or Italian; our family was multilingual) words. Still, they are real, and they are true, and they are a constant that the grown writer can touch on, decades later, when long autumn walks involves crossing city streets (and wondering if she would have to teach dogs the word, “bus,” as well as “car.”)

It’s natural, this time of year, to think of the veil between present and past thinning, so maybe that’s why it’s that easy, today, for adult me to touch that particular bit of kiddo me. I am, right now, about the same age Aunt Lola was when we took those walks. Stories still make me feel the same way, all tingly and alive with anticipation, wanting to get home, already, so I can dive into them and experience the story world as vividly as I did the walk to get them, in the first place.

Granted, now, I am the grownup. Now, I am the one writing the stories, as well as the one reading them. These days, it’s historical romance and contemporary YA that make my heart skip its way along the tree-lined road, possibilities whirling around in my head, like leaves kicked up in the wake of passing cars. When I get home, it’s not to parents and hamster, but husband and housemate, two miniature rosebushes, and a stuffed cat that is standing in for the real one we do not have right now (that bit about the stuffed cat is exactly the same, alas.) The feeling, though? Exactly the same.

It’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae of every day life, the mundane stuff like trash and dishes, and adulting, in general. Even so, I am fully convinced that one of the girls in my basement (thank you, Barbara Samuel) is an eleven-year-old girl, her pockets filled with black licorice, and a comic book between jacket and sweater.

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