why i write fiction

Here is where I lived in 1962, in Camp Springs, Maryland. It's where I picture Franny living in Countdown:

And here is what that house looks like today:

I drove by yesterday, after my signing at Politics & Prose. I'm still processing what I learned from the neighbors I talked with. Here is what happened at my house this past February. Gad, y'all.

I remember when this beautiful house was built. We watched it being finished, and then we moved in. It was on a corner lot -- my father loved corner lots. He planted fruit trees in the side yard, and poplar trees along the white fence that bordered Allentown Road. He bought a swing set from the Sears store on Alabama Avenue, in the District, and a riding lawn mower. He fertilized the yard and fought the crabgrass.

My mother lovingly tended her roses in the front flower bed. I took a rose, wrapped carefully in wet paper toweling and then foil, to my teacher now and then (as Franny does, in Countdown), and sometimes we got roses to wear in our hair:

If you look at the top photo carefully, you'll see my dad's VW bug -- one of the first. My grandmother (Miss Eula, up to visit from Mississippi!) is sitting on the front porch, with our French poodle, Amy. Here is the front porch today.
I pulled my rental car into the driveway -- the same driveway you see me standing in, in the photo above, with my little sister and my best friend Gale (a la Gale in Countdown) -- and... well, I just stood there for a long time, taking it in.

Then I walked into the middle of the front yard, right where Uncle Otts starts digging in Countdown, sat myself in the grass, wiped at my eyes, and said out loud to my precious old house, "Tell me. Tell me everything."

I listened to all her stories. I reminded her of those young days when every blade of grass was cut just-so, and the back yard had a tree fort -- the one that Drew inhabits in Countdown -- and how my dad put those patterned mirror tiles on the living room wall, and how he took endless home movies of this place he was so proud of, and how we had overnights with friends and Christmas carolled and rode bikes and wished on stars and shoveled the snow off the driveway each winter.

Eventually, I walked all around the house and took scores of photos, but most are too sad to show.

How do I always forget that nothing -- nothing -- stays the same?

Maybe this is why I write fiction, to help me remember that, although time changes all things physically (eventually even I will look this disheveled, and will die), there are truths worth championing, and love worth nurturing, and life worth living -- right now. Right now. Right now.


  1. Best part of this post: the comment, "Gad, y'all"

    so moving and so sad and so sweet and so weird and so, sigh....

  2. Gad, Barbara! Ha! Let's not cogitate on what I could have said. :> Hope you are home for the summer!


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