Twenty years ago today, I put Meredith, my then-youngest child, on the school bus so she could start first grade. (Yes, that’s her above.)
She was VERY excited to go. Honestly, I was very excited for her to go, too. I loved that girl with all my heart, but she was what we call in the North Country, “a heller.” Not a mean-spirited kid, but one that was 100% energy 100% of the time. If she was awake, she needed my full attention or there would be trouble.
After the bus pulled away, all the other moms and the stay-at-home dad went to the pancake house to celebrate, as was our annual tradition on the first day of school.
I did not join them.
I went back to the house and wrote down the date in my journal: September 7, 1992. I wrote a promise to myself under the date: that I would focus my writing energies for the next five years on writing a children’s book that was good enough to be published. If I could not make that happen by September 7, 1997, I would quit writing and go to nursing school.
My first book was published in 1996. I never went to nursing school, much to my mother’s dismay. She was always suspicious of this “writing thing.”
I could never have predicted what would happen as a result of the promise I made myself that day. I’ve published seven picture books, three historical novels, five YA novels, and a middle grade series. I am working on five books right now. My career has gone places I didn’t even know existed.
Meredith has grown up, too. She earned a teaching degree and is working in software sales, waiting for school districts to start hiring again. She got married in May, and bought her first house in July.
Thirty years ago this month, my mother (seen reading to Meredith above) was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to good doctors and health insurance, she survived for 27 years, though the disease dogged her repeatedly. I also have a cousin and aunt who wrestled with breast cancer. (The children’s literature world learned this week about Judy Blume’s breast cancer.)
In honor of her grandmother and as part of her ongoing journey toward her own health, Meredith has signed up for the Susan G. Koman 3 Day Walk for a Cure in Philadelphia, on October 5, 6, & 7. She will be walking twenty miles each day.
::puts hat in hand::
Would you please contribute to Meredith’s walk? Any amount is appreciated. Do in honor of someone who has had breast cancer. Do it for Judy. Do it to celebrate the power of bringing art into your life. Do it as part of a promise you make to yourself about your health or about your writing. Do it if you’ve enjoyed my books. Do it to celebrate what lies ahead.
Meredith writes: “The walk is special to me because I lost my grandmother over 3 years ago to breast cancer. She had breast cancer almost my entire life and was able to fight it for over 20 years. She has been such an inspiration to all of us, and continues to be with us daily as we need her love and guidance. I wish she could have physically been at my wedding and physically be able to see my children (in a few years!!). I’m walking for a cure so that my children don’t have to have the same loss of life with their grandmothers. I’m walking for a cure so that if the genes are in my body, I can get through the disease and live a life of 100+ years.”
Thank you for the last twenty years, my friends. Here’s to the next twenty!!