Is it just me or is this time of year, when the heat has lost its allure and the asphalt turns soft, remind anyone else of back to school time? Pencils, notebooks, new velvet oxfords, pants that aren’t too short, skirts that aren’t short enough?
Something about late summer triggers dreams of new beginnings, starting with the wardrobe. Yes, I want new clothes. No, I have no school to wear them to, nor do I need anything besides my ratty bathrobe and my bunny slippers to wear to work. The joys of being a writer: no one knows how big a slob you are. (Try to clean up for the public, please!) Still, I adore new school clothes, useless for their purpose that they are. I love sweaters, for instance. And once upon a time, tights that matched the sweater. And cute oxfords even though I did NOT go to Catholic school! Here are this fall’s “school” shoes, hot out of the shipping box.
We had to wear saddle shoes in high school for pep club, with culottes. Sort of ugh. (Does pep club even exist anymore? Or saddle shoes? Or culottes? Good riddance to them all.) And when I was little we always got velveteen oxfords in black for winter and red or navy keds in summer. Little variation on that theme. I do remember the revelation I had when someone, my mother or older sister, told me to match my anklets with my outfit. Lightbulb moment!
The new school year meant new beginnings. I went to four different junior highs within three school years so keeping an upbeat attitude was helpful in meeting new people. By the fourth one I was skipping the sidewalks the first day singing, “Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” Really. I made two friends from my neighborhood that day and they are still my friends.
Maybe that’s why I wrote the piece about Friends and Sidekicks over Auntie M Writes Blog this week. Friends are so important in life. Their meaning can’t be overestimated. I often write about solitary people whose relationships are strained or broken. That’s part of life too but because it’s fiction it’s highlighted as ‘striving for connection.’
I’ve noticed my heroines are often doing that, striving. Merle Bennett (Blackbird Fly) has lost her husband and his betrayals just keep on coming, making her question her worth. Cody Byrne in PLAN X has also lost a loved one, is estranged from her father, keeps her mother on a pedestal, and is having a ‘man problem.’ (I do like to pile on the troubles, don’t I?) For me fiction is about plot, yes, what happens to the character. But it is also, mostly, about what happens inside a character, how she figures out the world and her part in it, how she changes her stance, softening her pride, embracing her need for love and intimacy, even while she’s sometimes quite a bad ass.
Speaking of which, my son and daughter-in-law recently had their DNA tested by 23 and Me. Very interesting stuff, have you done it? I think I’m going to do it next. Somewhere in the results my son told me they said: “Your ancestors were all bad asses or you wouldn’t be here today.”
I wonder if my ancestors liked shoes as much as I do. Probably. They had to kick their way into the future somehow.