My next-door neighbor came over today and shared with me two photos from 1954. In the first photo, he posed with his mom our driveway and in the second photo, his mom is standing by her white picket fence in the back yard.
She’s waving in the photo. I can’t believe that’s my back yard. There is a chain link fence there now, and the bushes and flowers have been replaced with red stone pavers.
In my youth, there was abuse. I thought about suicide. I tasted my first beer at 15. I was so scared my mom would smell it on my breath that I didn’t talk the whole way home from the party. My legs were numb and I felt slightly queasy. I remember looking for books that would explain these feelings to me, to help guide me. My parents were oblivious to me needs, just trying to live the American Dream. They couldn’t understand my angst for freedom, my need to explore sex and go out and be a teenager. We might have left Cuba, but Cuba didn’t leave us. I was to be a good Cuban girl. (No drinking, no sex, no drugs).
I decided to write what I knew. Why not? It’s hard, because it’s close to the core. But I found that the YA novels I love the most are the ones in which the author lets me in and takes me on a journey. And when I have lived in his world, I feel good, sometimes bad, but better to have gone on the journey.
Is there a white picket fence in my story- perhaps, but the truth is that my character wants to be heard and has much to say and is finding her way, which is an eternal human condition. That’s a good place to start.
Maybe my earlier life will lead me to a powerful story and maybe my need to write it is so that it will be there for the next person who is exploring and needs to feel reassured.
It may not start with once upon a time, something more like, “I live in a one-bedroom apartment.”
Either way, idyllic is all in how you remember it.