One of the things that always seemed to stop me from actually writing stories was the old adage – write what you know.
What I know? Yikes.
And then I wondered about people who wrote science fiction and fantasy. How many friends do you have who are vampires? Yeah. Me too. Same amount. (And if you said more than zero, you should be writing books rather than whatever it is you are doing.)
I was nearly all the way through the first book when I realized how that maxim applied to me. What did I know best? People!
Growing up as a minister’s kid I met the most interesting people.
My parents were pretty great about handling those ‘interesting’ people with us. We were allowed to acknowledge that folks were different. Because avoiding that conversation is ridiculous. But we were never allowed to ridicule or consider ourselves any better than them because of those differences. People … including each of us … were unique and embracing that uniqueness was what made life so much more fun.
It seemed like every church we were at had at least one very eccentric person. Generally there were several, but a few were not only eccentric, but quite outgoing and then … they were thrilled to be introduced to a young pastor’s family. Those who stick in my memory were mostly women … older women. They loved having us kids come visit. We were respectful and often fascinated by the same things they were fascinated with.
In the early sixties, we moved into a little town in southeast Iowa … down near Burlington. That little church was a wonderful home for us. The library became my second home, which was perfect since it was right across the street from the church. I was expected to leave on time so I could walk the two blocks home with Dad after his day was over.
We lived next door to a woman I fell in love with. Gladys was her first name and today I have no memory of her last name. Her home was filled with kitsch and clutter, her kitchen with hundreds of sets of salt and pepper shakers. She’d see me outside, invite me in for a cookie and then sit at the kitchen table with me, telling stories about the salt & pepper shakers or letting me look through her wondrous recipe box. We were so sad when her children came to get her because she could no longer live on her own.
But she didn’t hold a candle to Doc Hensleigh. Now THAT was an interesting woman. In the early sixties, she was over seventy years old and still a practicing chiropractor. You didn’t often find elderly women in that practice … in small-town Iowa. Now Doc’s husband had died before we arrived in town, so she lived alone on a small acreage. And by alone, I mean … with her chickens and dogs and whatever other small animals she took in. She had plenty of money and was extraordinarily generous with people and with the church. Doc had fly-away hair, wore blue jeans and old flannel shirts. She was also a bit of a hoarder. The outside of her home was cluttered with tall grasses, trees and plants that you brushed aside as you walked the narrow path to her front door. The inside of her home was just as cluttered. Always clean, you just had to be careful where you walked. Fascinating!
I could tell more stories, but I’d hit people who are well-known by a lot of my friends and readers. I’m not ready to tell all of those to the world yet.
It’s funny, though. I am beginning to wonder if I might not be one of those interesting people who lives in a cabin in the woods, only coming out to get food, mail and do laundry. People in town don’t know me, who I’ve been or what I do with my days. All they see is a little bit of my life. Maybe I’ll start acting a little more eccentric. Haha. That would be hilarious.
Well, I’ll toss it to you. Do you remember someone like this when you were young? Maybe it was a grandparent or a neighbor. Tell me stories!