We all begin somewhere. Stories all begin somewhere. I began with my mom. She had me in January almost forty-nine years ago. It was not an easy birth. I was born too soon. They didn't know my mom had a chemical imbalance. She didn't do well, but we both survived somehow.
My parents were both artists, and even if they didn't stick together like glue, they provided the materials that inspired me to become the artist, the author, the illustrator, the creative woman I have become.
When I was little, I had decided that I wanted to be a children's book author and illustrator and kept that goal in mind despite many side trips down other roads. As an illustration student I still kept looking back to that sense of wonder that kept me alive and enchanted despite obstacles and difficulties.
My mom never lived to see my books get published. In fact she died six days after my twenty-fourth birthday in January almost twenty-five years ago. Ten days later the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Somehow that expressed my grief at the time- it was universal, galactic, unfathomable.
We didn't have much growing up, especially after my father left my mother for my brother's first grade teacher. My mother couldn't afford to pay our taxes or our heating bills. She didn't have health insurance, and she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the red blood cells. When she died, all that was left was the old, rundown farmhouse and barn we lived in, and she had sold it for less than the land was worth just before she died. We had to keep that sale going just to pay her medical bills.
What little was left was put into some stock for my younger brother and me to inherit when we turned twenty-five. Now I could have used that money to buy a car. A nice car for back then. But I didn't. I didn't touch it. Not for almost twenty-four years. I didn't know why. Partially it was because I wanted to prove I could build a life on my own and by myself. And I did.
This is the little studio that we restored. It used to be a work shed. It's over a hundred years old, and for the past fourteen years, this little building has been where I've created the art for the books I've written.
My mom always wanted a huge barn to paint in. She had a barn, but you could see through the floor boards to the old cement stalls below. The pot belly stove barely kept it warm in winter, and then one night a crazy kid in the neighborhood set it on fire and she lost four hundred of her paintings. It was the beginning of the end for her. I was the first one to see the flames from our kitchen window and had to tell her that the firemen were at our door.
But the other reason I think I didn't spend the inheritance is that I thought it was the last bit of "her" that I had left. If that money was gone, she would be gone. So I didn't touch it, and it grew. Just before the economy fell I was lucky to pull it out of the stock it had been sitting in all those years...
Now I'm skipping over a bunch of parts now, because they are not as relevant, but one day my beloved husband made me realize that if I used that money to build the studio I had always dreamed of, wouldn't my mother think that was better than it sitting in a bank account?
So. You know what? I used it all. I built that studio. It's almost done.
I can't wait to start writing, drawing, painting, dreaming, singing, dancing, creating... and the best part is that in the end, it came from my mother. It's her gift to me. Sometimes we have to take what seems like an ending and make it a beginning. It's true in writing, and in life, and you never know where it will lead you...
Have an amazing and inspirational 2011...
Here's to great beginnings, and middles and endings, too.