Children’s literature rarely revolves around a happy nuclear family…unless the protagonist is snatched from it in some heartbreaking way. Happy families don’t tend to provide the kind of conflict and tension a good book depends on.
And sadly enough, many real families experience a similar existence to the challenging one in books. Those families tug at my heart.
As a writer, I have to study and research that kind of family to write convincingly about them. Because (don’t hate me for it) I grew up in one of those happy nuclear families.
Mom and Dad both worked, but in my early years, Mom worked at home. She ran a nursery school. Not only was Mom home all day, but hordes of kids to play with arrived each morning. Our house was filled with toys, and our yard had playground equipment. A kid’s dream, right?
We were a big family and money was tight, but that taught us what is truly important in life. And it isn’t money. The only legitimate complaint I can give for my early years is I had to compete with six siblings and a school full of kids for my parents’ attention.
My teen years brought some of the tension that story feeds from, but those early years grounded me and prepared me in a way for which I will always be grateful. Those years remain strong in my memory, and May is a month when they flood into my mind, along with the smell of lilacs.
Why May? Mothers’ Day, for starters. A day most of us think about our mothers and our growing up years. Mom is the one who first got me interested in writing. And if I have any talent for it, it came through Mom’s genes.
May is also the month we lost our dad—21 years ago. I still feel him near me often, and thank him for teaching me the value of family. I have tried to pass that along to my own kids.
Dad lost his mother—in May—17 years before his own death. Grandma was the matriarch of a huge family whose members try to stay close and connected. More great genes.
There are also those lilacs I mentioned. We had four bushes of those May bloomers in our backyard when I was a kid. The fragrance of their blossoms filled our noses every spring when we played outdoors.
I planted a lilac bush outside my front door several years ago, and every May, each time I step outside or return home, its scent takes me back to childhood, to Mom and Dad, and the happy family that surrounded me.
|A Cannon-Wiechman family reunion|