Photo credit: Brooke Shaden
My son Max has never been an overly emotional kid — in the twenty-six years he’s been alive, he’s told me he loves me only once, when we thought I was dying — so when, at age nine, he burst into tears on our way home from summer vacation, my wife and I were understandably alarmed.
Turned out Max was sad about going back to school. No, not sad. He was despondent.
His tears, which he reserves for only the most grievous of physical and emotional injuries, were what convinced me to homeschool him and his then five-year-old sister.
That first year of homeschooling, I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. My curriculum, for lack of a better word, centered on the Seattle’s Best coffeeshop that had opened within walking distance of our house.
Each week day, rain or shine, we’d walk to that coffeeshop. We’d eat chocolate-chip muffins and discuss what I’d read aloud from the day’s newspaper (saving the comics for last, of course). Then we’d play a game or two. Then I’d re-stuff my satchel with all of Max’s Lego Bionicles and Mara’s baby dolls and we’d make our way back home.
One day, the manager at Seattle’s Best, Julie, who had become our friend, said she’d found evidence of someone living in the coffeeshop’s basement.
You know how, in horror novels, the haunted house is almost always built on the burial mound of a vengeful people? Well, the coffeeshop had been situated in a space formerly occupied by a once-venerated restaurant whose basement had been its kitchen.
Julie gave us a tour of the basement. It was a creepy ass maze of dim passageways and large and small rooms.
That basement, and the thought of who, or what, was living in it, gave me the idea for what would become my first novel, Walking Distance.
So in 2007, when the literary agent suggested I set aside that novel and start a new one, she didn’t know it represented the story of three people who were learning to learn in a new way: about themselves, about each other, and about a world that changed forever on September 11th.
That chaotic year of 2001, we learned how to hold on and to let go.
Which is really what life is all about, isn’t it?
So I thought about the agent’s suggestion.
And then I let go.
To be continued . . .