My desk is filled with photos my parents and their friends in the 1920’s through the 1940’s. None of the main characters in my historical fiction novel-in-progress, Two Suitcases, is alive.
I should have asked more questions.
I write from pictures, from old newspaper articles and newsreels, from family stories told many times or just once, from snatches of memory, from dreams. I read about the period and places where the story is set incessantly. Then I make up stories that could have happened.
There are four main characters in the story: my mother and father, Trude and Fritz, my father’s sister, Ida, and a friend of the family, Eric. Six more characters play secondary roles. None of these are entirely fictional, but what they do in the novel is certainly not what they did in life. It’s fiction.
Sometimes I wonder if they approve.
I had the great fortune to be with both my parents when they died, and I was close to my aunt till the end, but until yesterday, I thought Eric died about eight years ago and no one knew to contact me.
In yesterday’s mail I found a beautiful handwritten note.
“Eric passed away October 3, a few weeks before his 102nd birthday. He was in good health and excellent spirits. He died peacefully at home. His heart stopped while he was reading the Wall Street Journal.”
The perfect ending.
I said good-bye to Eric in 2008 on my way home from India. I already lived in California then and came east very rarely. Eric was his usual gracious and elegant self. It was five years after my mother died, and he told me for the first time how he’d loved her. At 95, he was still walking long distances every day, but we talked about the likelihood that this would be our last meeting. He filled my rental car with treasures from his beautiful house and we stood in the driveway a long time saying good-bye.
Caught up in the hurly burly of home, I didn’t write a thank you note for some months. When I did, it came back stamped “unknown.” I mourned.
I should have asked more questions.
I missed seven good years of Eric’s life.
Still, over these last couple months, the character, Eric, has been pressuring me to give him a more and more important role in the story. He’s been developing more personality, more, in fact, than any of the others, save Ida, and that perhaps because she acts as a foil to him. His voice is clearest.
If that note isn’t a wink, I don’t know what is.
Thanks, Eric. It feels like you approve.
7 thoughts on “Two Suitcases: a wink from Eric”
I love this Eve!! Even your description of what is happening with the book and how you are developing it makes great reading. Read, search, dream, and write – your parents would love the book you are creating. I bet they know somehow all about it, and I’m sure they approve and are extremely proud. How could they not be? Perhaps it is good that you didn’t ask more questions. The facts might bind you up. This way, you can give your creativity full rein. Have fun!!!!! If it is fun for you, it will be fun for your readers. Hugs, Annie
Thanks for the encouragement, Annie. It’s funny how I still want approval from the “adults” in my life even now.
I think you’re right about the freedom not knowing the facts gives me, though, and I’m definitely having a good time.
I get wanting approval from adults – when you said that to me, I immediately thought hmmmm, that is why I am writing and illustrating my odd blogs. I never would have realized that on my own. Thanks Eve! I’m sure that being inspired enough to do your research and think up new ideas for your book is good for you, good for your readers and fun! I am often uninspired, but feel driven to try and make something that pleases me. I hate that feeling – my forced projects never make me happy. I LOVE it when an idea inspires me so much, I work on it and time floats by unnoticed. I imagine your novel will have its frustrating moments, but overall it sounds like you are inspired! Enjoy it. Big hugs, Annie
It’s amazing how sometimes we should just pry little farther to learn about our elders. Not too long ago we learned of an important man in Ernie’s life who is, in fact, still alive – but has dementia. We wish that we would have had a chance to spend more time with him and ask good questions. How wonderful that you are pursuing “two suitcases” and bringing to clarity the stories that help to create you. I am so glad that this is a work of fiction – a work of integrating the story in your own mind. Well done – spot on – and you only need your own approval!
Wow. I can’t wait to read more! Eve, this piece and your hummingbird pieces are beautiful! Looking forward……
It all seems to be flowing and growing in its own perfect way
Wonderful! So happy for you, Eve. Love and aloha, Catherine
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