It was as though I’d stepped out of a time machine. Fresh off an airplane, three thousand miles from the place I now call home, I was staying in my childhood room in California, the room where I spent my high school years. The décor is a little different, but the flowered curtains I made are still hanging, the dresser in the corner is the one my parents bought me when I was twelve, and the pink carpeting’s the same, too.
This was the first time in a long time I visited without my kids. Maybe that’s why my childhood feelings started flooding back the second I arrived or maybe it’s because the novel I’m currently revising is based on a tiny seed of an idea from my childhood. Something that happened. Someone important to me who died much too young.
Driving up to my dad’s house, I was struck by the late afternoon light, how it fell across the driveway. I thought of a scene in my book when the main character is sitting in the car with golden light settling on Sycamore trees. I saw the scene out the car window, but more, I felt the frustration of the sixteen-year-old girl that I’d been, being in a place I didn’t want to be. Wanting to move on, wanting to be on my own.
The whole time I’ve been revising this story—even while I was writing, really—something’s been missing. Holding me back. It took the trip home—back in time, in place, and in feeling—to jog loose the memories. Not specific memories of places or people or things (although that happened, too), but memories of feelings, of emotions, of thought, and of ways of thinking. In short I was transported back to my sixteen-year-old frame of mind.
Late at night, I walked across the college campus (I grew up in a college town), walking past a spot in my book where the MC fights with a young man. He kicks a trashcan. I could imagine the kicking of the can. The scattering of trash, but more…as I watched students walk by, I felt the coiled, youthful energy around me.
Walking through a eucalyptus tree grove near the edge of campus, the smell of the dust and the distinctive oil from the trees mixing in such a familiar way, I could feel a teenage restlessness, an excitement and desire, stir within me. A time in life it was impossible to turn off the feelings. [Read more…]