Starting with Grandma
If I’m going to talk about me and my writing at all I have to talk about my maternal Grandmother, Earline Desmond. I was really fortunate to have her in my life, living in the same town and so close that she could babysit and take me on trips with her. She was incredibly imaginative, both a painter and a storyteller. I don’t know what happened with my Mother, she wound up a math teacher who can’t read fantasy novels because she can’t picture what’s going on in them.
My Grandmother read me fairy tales from a book without pictures, insisting that I had to see them in my head. That was a huge concept for me at six. Picturing things in my head from words on a page. It seeded something in me that took root. I think it lead to my interests in illustration and writing.
When I was little, my Grandmother would provide my cousin and I with pencils and water colors, brushes and watercolor paper. Then she would let us loose to imagine on paper. Nothing was wrong. Everything was interesting. She would ask us to make stories around the things we painted.
She knew stories that no one else seemed to know. Like the Vallejo Native American myth about Mount Tamalpias. I’ve since tracked down the story and validated its existance but when I was ten I had no idea how my Grandmother knew it when no one else did.
The story went that an Indian maiden was bathing by the San Pablo bay waters when a water god rose before her and told her he had fallen in love with her. He begged her to come with him and be his wife. She agreed but when he took her to his watery home she drowned. In grief and remorse he rose up and laid her body to rest upon the moutain top, creating the shape of a reclining woman that we see from across the San Pablo bay—though only from Vallejo’s perspective.
See, how cool is that? When your Grandmother comes up with a story like that as you’re riding in a car past a distant moutain range you’ve seen dozens of times and never thought anything of—don’t you just go wow—at least when you’re ten years old?
She died in 1997, confused about most things. I had already begun to miss her. I miss her still.