Friendship, reading, writing, and homecoming
When I was twelve and my mother was in the throes of her second marriage to a man people called Bear, I needed a friend. Thankfully, Dicey Tillerman came into my life. Dicey was thirteen when her mother abandoned her and her siblings in a mall parking lot. I connected with Dicey not because my mom abandoned me in a mall parking lot, but because even at the age of twelve, like Dicey, I knew a thing or two about survival and responsibility.
Dicey didn’t go to my school or reside in my neighborhood. She lived in the pages of a book by Cynthia Voigt. To most, Dicey was a protagonist, but to me, Dicey was a true friend. Gritty and real, she owned little, but remained resourceful. Dicey understood that life has a way of eroding goodness, and sometimes the only way to get through is to refuse to let go.
Not only did Dicey teach me about tenacity, she made me a reader, and later, a writer.
I don’t need to list the reasons why the last year and a half became noisy. You know it, you lived it. But it was during this time that I lost the desire to create and share words. I lost a contract for a new picture book series. I lost the drive to participate in school visits and events for Gutsy Girls. I lost the joy that comes from scratching out words in a spiral notebook just to see what appears.
It was also during this time that I visited my childhood home. I hadn’t been there since I was twelve, and while I was there, I thought about Dicey and wondered what forty-something Dicey would be like.
When I returned home, I found a tattered copy of the book that introduced me to Dicey at the library. I couldn’t check it out because I owe the library something close to a mortgage payment in late fees, but I held the book and stared at it for a long time before I realized the words we need to hear early in life are often the same words we need to hear as adults:
You are not alone.
Life will try to throw you.
Keep holding on.
Since then, I started writing again. Not writing for publication or for a target audience. Not writing proposals or query letters but writing because I missed words and because I know the power words have to comfort and carry not only those who read them, but especially those who write them.
Here's where Dicey and I first met. It seems like a full circle moment that the book's title is Homecoming.