Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #32): I Think I Was Always a Blogger at Heart

There was no such thing as blogging back when I was in high school (back in the Stone Age, as it were).  There was no such thing as blogging because there was no such thing as a personal computer that you had in your house, or this magical entity called the Internet that has become such an integral part of 21st-century existence.

Back then, if you had a burning desire to write about your life the way bloggers do nowadays, you could either use a typewriter or just good old reliable pen-and-paper and keep your musings in a journal or a diary. (I did keep diaries for a while in my girlhood--until I had to destroy one in junior high, after my best friend found and read it and I realized that no one should be writing down their deepest thoughts unless they wanted the whole world to know them.)

The other thing you could do, aside from the "Dear Diary" routine, was to keep scrapbooks.  And starting at the end of 8th grade, that is what I did: I kept simple scrapbooks that were filled with oversized construction paper pages, wherein I taped all the little bits and pieces of memorabilia that seemed of utmost importance to my teenage self (we're talking things like paper napkins and still-full sugar packets from restaurant meals with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, and popsicle sticks with traces of his DNA still on them, I'll bet!).
My high school scrapbooks were stored away in boxes in my parents' attic when I left for college.  I didn't take them with me when I got married in 1980, and when my parents sold my childhood home several years later, I assumed those boxes had gotten thrown out.  It made me a little sad at first, to think that I'd lost all my precious memories of days gone by; but eventually, I forgot all about the scrapbooks.  I was busy raising my boys, keeping up their baby books, and making photo albums and scrapbooks for them, filled with their boyhood memorabilia.  Then in 2002, my decades-old boxes were unearthed in a storage unit on my youngest sister's property and my long-lost scrapbooks were returned to me.  The scotch tape I'd used had disintegrated and they were a mildewed mess, but with the tape marks to guide me I painstakingly put them back together.

Oh my, the memories that came flooding back to me!  And the things I'd kept!   Things like gum wrappers, movie ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, dried flowers.  But along with my taped-in memorabilia, I also wrote about all my activities and feelings during that time.  (I think I was always a blogger at heart, though I didn't know it yet!)

What is so funny to me is to see pages like this one, from July 1973, when my high school boyfriend and I were just beginning to realize that we like-liked each other, and we rode on some rides together at the County Fair:
Or this one, from the first time he and I ever went to a movie together (not alone, but at least we sat next to each other):
I love how I wrote, "I really like him but I doubt he'll like me for long."  Ever the confident one, I didn't believe it would last.  Then about a week later, he asked me to "go with" him (that was the early-70's term for going steady, at least in our neck of the woods).
Aug. 6, 1973, a date I'll never forget!  It was the beginning of a long life together, but at 15 we really couldn't know that yet.  (Although I tell you, by 16, I was as sure as I've ever been of anything that he was the only one for me.)  Well, my dear readers, here's how it turned out: seven-and-a-half years later, we would get married. And now we have celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary...so I would say that my fears that he wouldn't like me for long were all for naught.  :)

There are so few photos of us from our dating years, because people just weren't as snap-happy back then as they are now.  There are probably fewer pictures of us together during those seven-and-a-half years of courtship than most modern kids take in a single day, in this New Age of iPhone cameras.  But here are a few snapshots from my scrapbooking days; and as you can see from these keepers, my hubby was rocking his big mop of 70's hair like a champ.
This black and white picture was taken on the night of his 16th birthday, when we got all dressed up and went on a double date to the lakeside restaurant where he worked as a bus-boy during the summers.  (The one just above it is from the Junior Prom, when I was growing out an unfortunate short haircut that didn't suit me very well and he was sporting Elton John-style platform shoes.  We were a pair!)
Here is a photo that was in our senior year book, of the guys in our class hanging out in the hallway at our Catholic school.  (My guy is the third one in from the right.  You know, the handsome one.)
When I decided to write Finding Grace, a coming-of-age story about a shy young girl who starts high school in 1972 just like I did, I was obviously drawing upon memories from my own life.  Tom Buckley was most definitely inspired by the only high school heartthrob I could envision, my husband.  That character did become his own unique person, separate from anyone I know in real life, in the course of writing the story; but he undoubtedly shares so many traits with the only man I have ever loved.  I really didn't know how to create a different sort of love interest for my heroine. (It would make me feel almost unfaithful!)

Finding Grace, however, is not my story.  Poor Grace Kelly spends years pining for the boy she loves, while he sees her only as a friend.  She doesn't get to be his girlfriend, the way I did with my Tom Buckley.  But there are certainly aspects of Grace's experiences that come from my own.  She lives in Plattsburgh, NY, where my husband and I grew up and met in high school, and Grace's high school is modeled closely after the one we attended.  She lives in a home that was a lot like mine, and Tom and Irene live in homes that are a lot like my husband's and my best friend's.  Tom goes away to Notre Dame for college, the way my guy did.  But that doesn't mean the story is meant to be autobiographical.  Trust me, it is fiction.  But I think I just don't have enough talent to create whole new worlds, so I had to use the one I knew the best as a backdrop for the novel.

Well, seeing as how this is Tuesday, and I've gone off on a tangent about Finding Grace...let's make this post a meeting of the Book Club.  If you're here, and you're still reading, welcome!
Grace Kelly and Tom Buckley's story ends when they are about to graduate from college (and I won't tell you how, because I don't want to give any spoilers for those who might be inclined to read the book!).  I used to kick around the idea of doing a sequel, but I believe Finding Grace will always remain a stand-alone book.  It's a long novel--the kind you can curl up with and really sink your teeth into--and I would want the sequel to be lengthy, too.  And I just don't think I have the time or energy for that--at least not during this busy season of my life, with so much going on in the lives of my sons and their families.  Being a Grammy trumps being a writer, and it always will.  I might get around to writing a sequel to Erin's Ring one day, though; I've got an idea for one, and it wouldn't have to be more than about 200 pages.  But again: Grammy time comes first.  So we shall see.  In the meantime, there's always blogging.

It's probably a good thing that there was no such thing as blogging when I was a young girl like my Grace; I don't think I would have ever gotten my homework done!  It would have been too much for me, too soon.  But I sure am glad that I discovered it back in 2011, when my boys were grown and I felt like I had the time to really have fun with it.  Blogging has brought me so much joy over the years, and has put me in contact with so many wonderful people I would never have otherwise met.

I think I've always had the heart of a blogger.  And really, what is a blogger if not a writer?

Before we end this meeting of the club, I have a question for you.  I don't think Finding Grace is too long, because I've always liked epically long novels; but some reader feedback over the years makes me realize that not everyone is like me in that regard.  What about you?  Do you like a quick read, or do you prefer a long, involved story that doesn't end too soon?

Meeting adjourned.  Now go read a good book!  (Or if you don't have time for that right now, a good blog post!)


  1. This post and everything in it is so cute. I loved how long Finding Grace was, and I didn't want it to end. I felt the same way about Gone With the Wind, and probably others that I can't think of right now. :-)

  2. I love your scrapbooks. I think there is a time and place for both long and short books. Length doesn't ever turn me away from a book, but I do like when the length serves a purpose. I admit to not being a fan of Tolkien describing grass for pages on end but I that's just me.

    1. Ha ha--agreed! I never read any Tolkein, I'm embarrassed to admit (my boys have and they love him). But I tried to read Les Miserables twice, and JUST. COULDN'T. DO. IT. So perhaps there ARE some books that are too long and wordy! :)

  3. I agree, long books that are a good read!!!

  4. Love those little glimpses into the past - with names and faces I recognize - especially yours because you DO NOT CHANGE! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Those were the days, weren’t they? :) Hard to believe that hallway doesn’t exist anymore. I get sad when I drive by the place where St. John’s used to be and that brick building isn’t there anymore.

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