Let me start by saying that my grandmother, Ethel Herman, died this weekend, and I will really miss her. She was 92 and died with her husband (Grampy is still with us!) there, in her own apartment--Grammy and Grampy have been a big part of my life, taking care of us when my parents weren't able (or needed a break), sending cards on every birthday, anniversary, mother's day, valentine's day, etc., coming to visit when my son was born, offering sixteen kinds of food when we came with both kids to visit them, emphasizing, always, that family is the most important thing in this world.
I've been remembering times when they came to visit us in Newton, when the rules shifted from Mom and Dad's rules to grandparent rules, when the whole book of world changed syntax, ever so subtly.
I called my grandparents this weekend especially to talk with my grandmother about her uncles, who were triplets. I don't have any official links yet, but I have been working on a new novel, called The Orphan Spoon, about triplets--two identical, one not. I believe the root of my interest in triplets came from Grammy's stories about her uncles. One, she said, was the world's most wonderful. The other two, well, they were okay. I wondered just how that worked.
In our old neighborhood in Newton, in the big house, where I had my own room shaped like a keyhole and my oldest sister, Claudia, lived with eves and windows that looked out on the tops of trees on the third floor (she had a clawfoot tub in the bathroom; my mother had a darkroom upstairs), there were neighborhood triplets. They were boys. They were French. They were mysterious. They were older than we were.
There was a big rock, a glacial erratic, on an island at the intersection of three streets--The Big Rock, we called it, and it was a Big Adventure to go down there as part of our games of sardines, or to watch the geometric wanderings of ants. But the triplets lived down there, and this is just to say that they were a root and seed in my imagination--older, vaguely dangerous, something to be stored for later work.
Writing prompt: what lives under the soil of your imagination? What early places stay with you, stone and scent and light? Write that place. Then populate that place with conflict and play, with all-important family.
I'll miss you very much, Grammy. May you have all the cream-top milk you want, may you magically know how to swim, may you never worry about weight and always know you are loved.