Monday, August 11, 2014
It All Adds Up
I can hardly believe it, but my boys only have one more week of summer vacation. As they get older, I’m painfully aware that we have fewer summers together before they go off to their grownup lives, and that makes me want to pack in as much great stuff as we can during their off months.
This summer was not one of those summers. It started out fine, full of lazy mornings and baseball games. Then I stepped off of the bottom stair and onto the dog’s tennis ball, badly spraining my ankle. Fourth of July weekend, when I was almost done with the hobbling and the Ace bandages, my older son got sick with an adenovirus. I’d never heard of that particular nasty bug before and hope never to again. He told me it was like everything he’d ever been sick with all at once, and it was a full month before he really started to feel like himself.
Thankfully, we were finally able to get out of town for our road trip to Chicago. I have friends who traveled to more exotic destinations this summer, and for the writer in me, my plans felt a little less than inspiring. I’ve been to the Windy City before—and love it—but it’s not quite the same as getting passport stamps from across the globe.
But once there, I was reminded that the accumulation of experiences, both big and small, makes us who we are…and does the same for our characters. I stood in the alley where John Dillinger died. I walked onto Soldier Field, home to one of the NFL’s most venerable franchises. I rode a Segway for the first time (mostly successfully). I watched the Navy Pier fireworks from the 94th floor of the Hancock Building. I talked to an elderly man from Siberia who swims in Lake Michigan every day of the year, even when he has to dodge floating chunks of ice.
On the last night of our trip, we stopped in a small Illinois town and stayed the night with my husband’s cousin, who lives with his wife in the house built by my sons’ maternal great-great-great-grandparents. It’s a beautiful old home with lots of history—and a doll collection that was just creepy enough to get my imagination working overtime.
So, even though I didn’t make it to Rome or Bali or Reykjavik this summer, I didn’t come away empty-handed, and I hope to incorporate these experiences into my writing someday. Maybe even the dolls.
What have you done this summer that inspired your writing?