I’m sure I’ve written about memories before – how and when I started writing and such. But this blog is about my very first memories after being born. In my case, since I am 75, that means going back at least 71 years. As far as I can dig into my past, I think that first memory is from when I was four years old. I was sitting in the loft of a barn and watching it rain.
My parents were fairly poor then, not church-mouse poor, but I know times were hard. They had just moved with me and my older sister to St. Joseph, Michigan from LaPorte, Indiana, where my father had worked in a bomb factory during WWII. In LaPorte, they lived in government housing in a place called Kingsford Heights. When they moved to Michigan, we lived on property owned by my uncle, Albert Williams, who, at that time, I saw as my “rich uncle” because they had a nice house and we lived in his back yard in a house trailer – and not the kind of trailers they have today. This was one of those old, tiny, silver, rounded trailers that had hardly any room in it.
The barn I sat in, watching the rain, belonged to Uncle Albert. I think I had climbed up into the loft of that barn just to get out of that tiny trailer and enjoy some space. I really don’t remember if my mother was looking for me. She probably was. All I remember is sitting in that loft watching the rain and feeling very lonely and melancholy.
I don’t know why that memory is so very vivid to this day, but I realized as I wrote this that, for some reason, my most vivid childhood memories involved sitting at a door or window looking outside and feeling lonely. My next memory comes from about a year later. I was about five years old and sitting in a house we had moved into in Coloma, Michigan (the town I have lived in the rest of my life). Our new dwelling wasn’t really a house. It was more of a converted shed, and I remember we had a lot of trouble with mice. I’ve gone by that excuse of a house several times over all these years, and it truly is just an old shed now. I can’t believe we really lived there. We were still poor then, and the shed was behind a bigger house that belonged to the people who owned the property. Again, I saw those people in the nicer house as the “rich neighbors,” and we were the poor ones. They were very nice, though, and the woman there and my mother became close friends for life. I became good friends for years after that with one of the woman’s daughters.
Again, in this second memory, I was looking out a window and watching birds sitting on a clothesline outside. I remember the grass was very green. I think it was springtime. I remember wishing I could be one of those pretty little birds perched on the clothesline. And again, I felt lonely and melancholy. I was always daydreaming, imagining a different life, and even at that age I often thought about romantic heroes who saved me from “bad guys.”
My third vivid memory is from yet another house we moved into in the country – a real house this time. I was around eight years old. Most things in between all of that are blank – and again, the memory is of me sitting in an upstairs bedroom looking longingly out a window at birds flying against a background of white clouds. I also remember that that is when I wrote my first poem, and it was about love. Yes, love – at about seven years old. I still have the poem because my mother had it published in the local newspaper, which used to publish poems by local residents:
We sat here together long ago, watching the birds fly to and fro.
Then we sadly parted – waving good-bye.
I guess it was forever. Strange, how gray the sky.
I come back here and sit, dear, nearly every day,
But you have never come back. It’s no use to stay.
But I will linger for a while, and imagine you are here.
While the birds fly to and fro, you seem so very near.”
Oh, my gosh! I was writing romance at seven years old! Over the years I wrote tons of poems, and I tried to get them published, but no luck.
By fourth grade I had written my first story – a love story about two ducks called “Mr. and Mrs. Quack.” I’m sure you are laughing over the title, but at that time it was a very serious story for a girl only about eight years old. The male duck was shot down during hunting season but survived and found “Mrs. Quack” again. Lovers separated by fate and then finding each other again – the very type of book I write today. The front and back covers to that first book were made of construction paper and it was all tied together with green yarn. My mother kept it for years and then gave it to me. I thought I still had it, but I can’t find it. Sad.
Apparently, even from a very young age, I was a melancholy, imaginative, romantic girl who wanted to write love stories. Growing up, I always leaned toward sweeping, romantic, dramatic movies and books, and I also loved American history and books and movies about pioneers and Indians, which apparently led me to what I write today. And I still love birds. I have five bird feeders outside my kitchen window now, and I make sure they are always full. I absolutely LOVE bird-watching.
I also have vivid memories of playing with my friend Beverly, from the ages of around seven to ten. Two little girls, all alone, playing in grape fields and orchards, far away from our houses. Little girls all alone in the woods would never be accepted today, but we knew no fear and never thought a thing about anything bad happening. Our parents didn’t worry either, as long as we made it home for supper. And what did we play? Cowboys and Indians! And I always had to be the fastest draw and ride a white horse! Sound familiar? My heroes don’t ride white horses, but they are definitely the cowboy type and fast on the draw.
I got busy with “life” and kids and a job after marrying at twenty years old, and I didn’t get around to trying to write a “real” book until I was about 32, and at 38 (1983) my first book was published – SWEET PRAIRIE PASSION – by Kensington Books. That book led to a 7-book series called SAVAGE DESTINY, which to this day (2020) is still selling!
At 75, the romance and love of history and the American West is still with me, and I am still writing. Sometimes I still feel that little girl deep inside. She’s never left me. I wonder if all of you reading this still feel the child inside and have vivid memories from your own childhood – and if those memories seem to have a connection to how life turned out for you. If you are a writer, it’s those life experiences you should remember and use to bring reality to your stories.
Don’t forget to stop once in a while and take time to just sit and listen … and daydream.



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