You’d think a kid born near Cambridge, Massachusetts, would have some preppy childhood, but mine was anything but that. My father left his engineering job to return to Michigan and buy an old tavern. To save money, he underinsured the place, not expecting anyone to break in and light the pizza boxes on fire. Our household items were in storage there, since we were in the process of moving. You don’t forget seeing a melted jukebox or your favorite stuffed animal singed. We spent that summer rebuilding with the help of family and friends from the neighborhood. It seemed like we were poor for years after that.
I was lucky to have parents who were readers. Every Tuesday, my mom would take me to the library during the summer and we’d leave with a stack of books. My love of books, led to a love of writing. When I applied for colleges, I was accepted into both art programs and writing programs, but finally decided my strength was in painting.
I majored in Fine Arts, which lead me to study art history and renaissance painting in Italy. It was a knee-quaking moment those first tentative steps out into
Rome alone that first day. I returned home a different person, a certified explorer and a lover of new places, people, and things. But I wasn’t finished with Europe yet, so I applied for a Fulbright to the former Yugoslavia to do post-graduate studies. In Belgrade, I met my beloved future husband, and we hitchhiked across the region to study and photograph native roadside tomb monuments.
When my husband and I returned to the US, we couldn’t find work. We scraped together money, bought a Checker cab, and took a suitcase each of clothes, our portfolios, and another suitcase stuffed with pots and pans. We zigzagged down South, stopping in different spots, talking to folks about their town. We were awkward questioning people, but we got better. Strangers were amazingly open, friendly, and helpful. After living and traveling in Europe, it gave me a whole new love and appreciation of my home country. We slept in a tent, opened our little suitcase of pots and pans, and cooked over the firepit. It was fun. We would have kept going but we ran out of money in South Carolina, where we settled into jobs that used our talents. I landed a job at a newspaper writing and designing publications and my husband worked in textiles. During that time, I started writing short stories and winning some awards.
When our dear son was born, I wanted to move closer to family. We purchased my parent’s business, made many updates, but tried to retain the old-school feel of the place. After twenty years of ownerships, I’ve learned a lot. Running a tavern has given me plenty of inspirations for characters and stories. My first manuscript was almost exclusively written between 2AM and 5AM while my son slept, and the business was closed. Creativity always finds a pathway and writing is a daily morning habit. My stories often reflect the struggles of the working-class women, something I’ve witnessed plenty.
I still travel whenever I can.