by Susan Sey
I had an epiphany the other day.
I didn't find an image of the Virgin Mary in my morning oatmeal or anything. It was pretty pedestrian as far as epiphanies go. My sudden blast of insight was more related to the ten-hour road trip I was preparing for.
When I was a kid, we regularly drove up to our family cottage in Northern Michigan for the weekend. It was a four hour trip, one way. Sometimes my dad would drive back to the city for the work week, leaving my mom & sisters & I alone at the lake until he returned late Friday night.
Every afternoon while he was away my mom would load up the giant van & take us all to the Dairy Queen in town. I can't remember what we all ate but she had an enormous Peanut Buster Parfait. Every day, rain or shine, without fail. Peanut Buster Parfait.
When I was a kid, road trips just...happened. Like Christmas & birthday parties & dinner & clean clothes. They just magically occured & I didn't bother to think about where they came from. I got in the van at home, got out several hours later at the cottage & voila. Summer vacation was upon us.
I thought about this as I stood in my bedroom the other day with suitcases piled up to my knees, a mountain of clean but unfolded laundry mounded on the bed, & an excel spreadsheet in hand listing out everything I needed to do/pack/remember. Getting a family from Point A to Point B is no joke. Succesful military campaigns have been mounted that require less planning.
When I was a kid, I thought the daily trip to DQ for was us. Now that I'm older (and have survived a few solo, ten-hour road trips sans my husband,) I know better.
That Peanut Buster Parfait was my mother's sanity. It was nothing less than an oasis of selfishness & indulgence. It was something to look forward to every day while trapped for a weeks in a tiny cottage with one bathroom, balky plumbing & no other kids for miles around. I don't remember if she read romance novels or not, but I hope she did. If ever a woman needed a HEA, it was my mom during those long weeks at the lake.
This little epiphany of mine got me thinking about other transitions I've made, other times life has forced me to rearrange my thinking. Most particularly, I've revisited how I define a good book anymore.
Before I tried writing, I didn't cut books--or authors--a lot of slack. I loved a good book. I adored a great one. I read them over & over & over again if a book took my fancy. But if a book failed to live up to the promise of the blurb? Or petered out after a promising start? Or finished with an unsatisfying limp? Oooooh. I did not forgive easily.
But now that I write books--or attempt to write books--I have a great deal more empathy for what the author tried to do rather than what she actually did. I can admire an ambitious plot turn, even if it isn't artfully executed. I can befriend a hero or heroine who isn't quite as sympathetic as I'd have demanded before.
I especially love books that are set in unusal locations (Ancient Rome, anybody?) and unpopular time periods (Vietnam War era stuff really appeals to me right now for some reason.) I love the fact that the author sank a year or more of her life into swimming upstream with no guarantee it would pay off. I love that somebody listened to her heart & wrote what was in it instead of trying to force her idea into a pre-formed & saleable slot.
So tell me: When was the last time you changed your mind? Got a fresh perspective? Redefined something? Took a risk? And you're talking to somebody who recently gave both her children homemade summer haircuts, so don't hold back. Nobody's going to judge you here. :-)