Happy New Year to all my friends and readers. Holiday season was hectic here. Roof leaked and flooded my dining room. Days were filled with roofers, plasterers, contractors, painters, rug people, insurance agents weaving in and out of time spent working on my new book and celebrating the holidays plus my birthday, my brother-in-law’s birthday, and my anniversary–all in that same week–while visions of Peru (setting for my new book) danced in my head.
I’d love to hear about exciting or surprising holiday events from my readers of Taking the Tumble.
Last night, in a lucid dream, I interviewed Cyn Westland’s mother (Anwyn) and my heroine’s father (Davis), recently divorced, as well as her father’s new ladylove, Tirah. We were seated in the living room of Anwyn’s penthouse. Davis and Tirah shared the couch, and through the room’s huge picture window the view of Central Park 20 stories below. Anwyn and I sat opposite each other on plush chairs surrounding the coffee table. From the corner of my eye I could see the park’s trees, their bare branches covered with a light sprinkling of snow. Across the park stood the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we could just make out the twinkling lights of its handsomely decorated Christmas tree in the museum’s roof garden.
Cyn and Mac were away on a book tour to promote his graphic novel, “Wild Adventures in Heroic Stupidity—The Tall Tale of Oxy Moron,” so I started the interview.
Me: Cynwyd is a most unusual name. How did you come to choose it?
Davis: I visited a marvelous collection of post-Impressionist art in a suburb of Philadelphia, Bala Cynwyd, and the name stuck with me. It had a lovely sound.
Anwyn: Of course I knew it belonged to a Welsh saint, so I went along.
Me: But did you know if it was female?
Tirah (with a rich laugh): That language is so unpronounceable, who would know the difference?
Anwyn scowls. Davis looks fondly indulgent. Interviewer struggles to hide a giggle.
Me: I’ve heard Cyn claim that you were very harsh with her when she grew up.
Davis: Nonsense. I just held her to some standards. We need to set the barrier high, or we’ll end up a nation of ignoramuses.
Me: How did you feel about that, Anwyn?”
Anwyn: There were times when I thought he was too severe, (she takes a sip of her wine), but to be truthful, I was too full of my own concerns to contradict Davis.
Me: That’s very candid of you.
Anwyn (defensively): Well, I’m in therapy now. I’m learning to face the reality of my behavior.
Me: And you, Tirah? Have you any feelings on the matter?
Tirah: I believe in having standards and goals to live up to. But I believe in women, and men, facing their responsibilities.
Me: Can you expound on that?
Tirah: As I told Cynwyd, women have the responsibility of teaching men that they can’t get away with everything. For example, if Cyn felt her father was too harsh, she should have stood up to him and told him so. A definition for being too harsh needs to be clarified, brought into the open. People must learn to go beyond their prejudices and establish genuine communication.
Me: That’s not easy.
Tirah: No, but for education to succeed, for genuine learning to take hold, it must be done.
Anwyn (looking bewildered): It isn’t always possible to express one’s feelings in a way that can be understood by the other person. It’s too easy to be angry rather than reasonable.
Davis (leaning back and listening): I’ll let you ladies hack it out. I see you both want to dissect me.
Laughter bursts out among all four of us.
Me: Well, I’ll focus on you for a moment, Davis. Your choices are certainly eclectic. Your fiancée is an imposing, dark-haired, highly intelligent career woman, while your former wife is a petite, angelic, unprofessional female. Yet they both found you appealing.
Davis (shifting a bit uncomfortably): I believe in the philosophy of the trend-setting anthropologist, Margaret Mead. After her researches in Samoa, she returned to lecture, among other things, on the need for marriage to be serial. The first marriage, if I may paraphrase my understanding of her words, is for bearing children, and each party should concentrate on finding the best mate to achieve that goal. But when the children leave the nest, the parents should be free to pursue a partner who more closely fulfills their ideal of a life shared, of common interests and tastes, and a desire to be with this person forever more, as the old saying goes.
Me: And you, Tirah?
Tirah: Oh, I agree. Strongly. There is the right mate for youth, and the right mate for maturity.
Me: Before I close this interview, what do you think of the United States?
Tirah: It is a country both wonderful and exasperating.
Me: Can you enlarge on that?
Tirah: No. I promised Davis I would stay away from politics.
(Interview terminates 7 a.m. as the alarm goes off.)
One of the big pluses of participating in the social media is the surprise contacts with old classmates and, if you were a teacher, old students reaching out to tell you how you influenced their lives. How I wish my father, who was an inspired teacher, could have benefited from that. After I left my editing job at Newsday, I moved on to college teaching of English and, especially, of Journalism. Learning now, years later, how some of my students fared after graduation, has given me a great deal of unexpected pleasure.
And another surprise, quite unrelated to teachers and students, is the lovely writeup I received in Alicia Dean’s blog page this morning. http://aliciadean.com/2013/09/27/kids-pets-and-problems-and-a-free-kindle-ebook/ . In fact, here’s the reverse of the coin, as Alicia was my editor on my romantic suspense novel, TAKING THE TUMBLE, which is still being offered free on Amazon for Kindle today and tomorrow.
The “bare” part of the title doesn’t fit any longer, as our Arizona living evolves around tank tops and shorts, but there was a bear in our neighborhood one summer, and we frequently see javelinas marching down the streets and munching on the cacti, as well as deer on the golf courses and coyotes everywhere. Besides the snake that landed on my husband’s shoulder as he was opening our front door, we have occasional visits from them on our back patio, in our garage, and hiding under rocks and bushes. Sometimes they’re rattlers. I saw a wildcat on my neighbor’s back fence, and a covey of quails was born in our backyard. But the most unusual animal to visit us showed up on our roof.
We heard the patter of footsteps for several nights and finally called pest control, thinking we had pack rats nesting up there. A man with a cage showed up late the next day and climbed up to the roof. When he finally descended and rang our doorbell, his cage was no longer empty. Inside was an animal sporting a gorgeous bushy tail and huge round eyes, like the ones we remembered from our night-flying squirrels. It was a ringtail, a nocturnal animal resembling a small fox with a raccoon-like tail. It is usually seen only at night in woods and rocky areas, not places like our roof, so it was thrilling to see it up close and to learn it’s the state animal of Arizona.
As a postscript to my three days of animal stories, you might be interested to know that I grew up in the city, never had a pet, and until I married knew wild animals only from zoos. I’d love to hear comments from my readers. And don’t forget, TAKING THE TUMBLE will be FREE Oon Kindle tomorrow through Sept. 28. Go to Buy at Amazon on my home page or,
The next week the plumber we’d hired finally arrived and installed our appliances. We set our dining table in front of the 8 ft. long windows of the living-dining room and invited close friends for our first try at entertaining in our new home. I had just put a casserole on the table when my friend Marian, who was facing the window, let out a piercing scream and pointed. I turned to see our mama bear had returned. She was standing on two legs, her front paws leaning on a protruding windowsill, peering in at us. Her head looked huge. The little ones were behind her busily munching the Cheerios we had put out for the raccoons. Years later my friend still reminds me of the shock she received that day.
From then on our garbage was frequently raided, but we never saw the bear or her cubs so close to the house again. We had to content ourselves with a possum who perched on a dogwood tree outside the window where it could see our TV screen and seemed always there for its favorite program. A skunk shared the dish of Cheerios with our raccoons on a regular basis, needing only to raise its tail to keep the ‘coons at a distance. And flying squirrels would perform their acrobatics for us by swooping down into the bird feeder, even though we had lights on in the back yard. There was also a tame deer who would lie down in front of our house close enough to pet, but the next time we were visited by unusual beasties occurred when we moved to Arizona—tomorrow’s story.