I have a crazy love for shows where people search for their ancestors. Mostly, I love the moment when the past intersects with the present and the living person discovers a common bond with the ancestor they’d never known. I’ve always believed I’d do a search like that one day and discover that someone else in my family tree was a writer.
So why is a person like me always roaming and moving from place to place, for a job or a better living situation? Always searching for something when, in fact, I love the feeling of having roots and being part of a larger whole? I don’t have an answer. I’m like the kid in the back of the car asking “are we there yet, Dad?” I’m a seeker and, currently, a rather rootless seeker. Some of my travels have taken me, like Dina, to Ireland and to New York City.
But when I think of home, I think of the shores of Lake Erie where its waters wash up on the beaches of Presque Isle State Park or “the peninsula” as I call it, in Erie, Pennsylvania.
I’ve always longed to get a tour of one of the houseboats in Horseshoe Pond at the peninsula. They’ve been there since 1934 and are handed down in families. I had to make up what I thought they were like inside when I took my character, Dina, there to stay for a while, but it was fun to live a dream of mine vicariously through her fictitious experience.
I come from a very stable, loving family. Nothing like the dysfunction and chaos that Dina, faces, however, I’ve known a lot of good, kind people – men and women – who’ve felt broken by life’s challenges. Perhaps they’ve suffered loss, or great illness, or they’ve gotten into relationships where they feel unappreciated, unsupported and unloved. Dina, like so many people, is wretchedly determined to hang onto a bad relationship, despite advice to cut and run, always trying to make it work because leaving is failing; leaving is going back to being lonely. I was that woman too, a long time ago, and I learned that walking away from someone who is all about themselves is simply leaving someone who doesn’t love you well or enough to make it worth staying. I’ve been lonelier in those relationships than on my own. We’re all broken at some point in our lives and then we stand up, dust ourselves off, put the pieces back together, and come back, hopefully, stronger and better. Forgiving yourself and moving forward is what creates strength.
Dina’s story is the cumulative story of many people woven into a piece of fiction that I hope speaks to my readers. I’ve selfishly set it in places I love, miss, and long to revisit, even if it’s just through the pages of my own novel.