I regularly get questions about which of the characters has my personality or characteristics. It finally hit me that I gave each of the five women who comprise my main characters – Polly, Lydia, Beryl, Andy, and Sylvie something of myself. Now while I’ve given them each little pieces of me, they’ve filled out their own personalities. I think these women are familiar because they are so like all of us. You aren’t just a bunch of Lydias or Beryls, but you all recognize something of yourselves in each of them.
Sylvie got some of my fears and regrets – as well as the tenacity to push through them. The other night I was binge-watching NCIS and Ducky said “If you are in hell, keep going.” That made so much sense to me. We all do that. It’s why we’re still here, though I can’t describe much of my life as hell.
But Sylvie represents the part of me that was certain I had my life-plan in place at the age of twenty-one. I had a degree in music education and intended to teach or move right on to get my Master’s degree in Christian Education and Music. I’d spend my life working on staff in churches. Sylvie had a life-plan. She was going to be a nurse. Children and an abusive husband changed her plan.
I didn’t have those, but life changed my plan and I spent the next twenty years running a quick printing shop. Like Sylvie, it was surprising when things changed and I realized that something better was in front of me. I’d spent fifty years volunteering and working in churches – in multitudes of positions both musical and non-musical – too numerous to list here. Things change. Sylvie changed and moved forward. So did I. That’s where the two of our personalities converge.
Andy Saner-Specek. Andy is the part of me that is the introvert (it grows greater as I age, that’s for sure). She is content to be in supportive roles. She is highly organized and makes sure that the people around her are safe and have tools they need in order to live out their dreams. She has plenty to say, but doesn’t need to speak up all the time. Sometimes it’s awesome to just sit back and enjoy the chaos around you.
Beryl Watson. I think all of us would like to think we are Beryl. She’s wacky and wildly creative. On the outside, it looks as if she doesn’t care what others think of her. Beryl is a side of me people will rarely see. If I could have gotten away with wearing the wild clothing she wears, I would have, but it was never appropriate for the jobs I held or the life I lived. I tend to be outspoken at times, but usually get myself in trouble, so I’m more circumspect. But trust me, those words are in my head and it’s all I can do to keep them quiet. The thing with Beryl is that she cares very much what people think of her, so she is quite calculating in how she presents herself to the world. If they’re going to talk about her, she’s going to be in charge of what they say. She’ll own it – before anyone gets a chance to comment. Those who have rejected Beryl in the past hurt her badly and she will never let that happen again if she can help it.
I’m that person. I’m hyper-aware of people’s responses to me and to others. Sometimes I read more into a response than is actually there, but if there is going to be any discussion about me, I want to be the one who has created the conversation.
Lydia Merritt. The part of Lydia that I gave her is her awareness of others. I’m not as hospitable as Lydia is, nor will I drop in on people to take care of them, but I do my best to pay attention to those I encounter – whether online or in person. If there’s a need I can meet without them asking for help, I will do everything I can. Lydia makes me want to be better at that behavior. There are so many other aspects of Lydia that I wish I could apply to myself. Her unfettered generosity is something that I love about her and will always strive to emulate. Oh … and she drives my Jeep.
Polly Giller. I’ve written before that in many ways, Polly is representative of my mother. The one aspect of myself I gave to Polly is her tenacity and willingness to do whatever it takes to get things done. This was a value instilled into us by Dad from a very early age. No matter what, tasks will be completed. If you start something, you stick to it until you are finished. You don’t quit. When you’re ready to be done with something, you make a plan to walk away from it … you don’t just drop out.
Now the things that drive you crazy about Polly are also from my personality. When she whines because it gets to be too much or she gets too nosy or she wants to tell people what to do – well, that’s me. You’ll often notice that she deals with a lot of these things in her head. It’s better that way and while she might seem annoying, it’s her way (my way) of working out the nastiness inside before letting it loose on the world. Who cares if she’s whiny inside her head? She has to work through it.
Also, the story she told about not wearing underwear to school one day in Kindergarten was mine. I was that rebellious little girl who thought she knew better than Mom. I got two blocks from home and ran back crying because I realized how wrong it was. There are a lot of Polly’s embarrassing stories that come from my background.
Before I close, I need to tell you what happened to me today. I just love people.
I had errands to run and figured I’d head for Ames to do a couple of them and maybe pick something fun up for lunch. Living in the country doesn’t offer many opportunities for fast-food. My Jeep has been absolutely filthy and I hadn’t had time to wash it yet, so I ran through a car wash in Boone and headed east to Ames.
When I brought my car up to speed, it started to shake. Damn it. I pulled up the tire pressure numbers and they were just fine, so I didn’t have a flat. I tried to talk myself into believing that the roads were just that bad. But when I crossed the bridge and took the entrance ramp onto Highway-30, I knew it was me, so I pulled over and called my garage. I love these guys. I trust them completely.
His first thought was that maybe with the heat, one of the tires had a bubble or maybe a belt on the tire had slipped. I was now about 40 miles from the garage in Webster City (Gerber Auto, if you want to know) and I asked if he thought I could make it. Sure, he said, just don’t go very fast. I also knew that if I didn’t make it, they’d come get me. Like I said, I love these guys.
I made it there with no problem. When I got to the counter, Josh smiled at me and told me they’d take care of me – not to worry. Then … the owner came out and took my keys. He wanted to drive it to see what the problem was. For some crazy reason, I told them that I’d just come out of a car wash before it started. The next question was – you drive a lot on gravel, don’t you? Of course I do.
The owner took the car out, then brought it back and drove into a bay. They knocked out about two pounds of mud that had gotten caught up in behind brake calipers. He drove it again and returned to tell me it was driving smooooooth now. When I tried to pay, Josh glared at me and said, “You’re welcome.”
Of course! Thank you!
I went back out to my Jeep, drove away and just wept. THIS is Iowa-nice. For a girl who knows nothing about cars, I am grateful for a garage who treats me with respect and the guys who take every opportunity to teach me something new so I don’t have to rely on them. I know how to wash the undercarriage of my Jeep now. But they also told me it would happen again and they’d take care of me the next time.
If you ever wonder why I write stories of good people in Bellingwood, it’s because they are so real in the every day parts of my life.
And … I stopped at Dairy Queen for a pork tenderloin. Oh yeah – that’s another thing Polly got from me.