If my life were a novel…
SETUP: My mother was a strong-willed Okie who survived the Dust Bowl. Relatives used to say she’d buy anything on credit, or as they put it, “a dollar down and a dollar when they come to get you.” My alcoholic baker father from Arkansas survived World War II and my mother for 38 years.
INCITING INCIDENT: During my childhood, my parents would pack up our belongings, load them in the car, and off we’d move to another Southwestern town. We finally settled in Abilene, Texas, when I was 14. A high-school dropout at 17, I had sense enough to return to high school three years later and graduate in the top fourth of my class. I was 20 by this time and didn’t know squat, though I’d been married and had a child. Administrators had reservations about letting me back in because I might tell the other kids about sex. Hah. Those kids knew more than I did.
Deus ex machina intervened at this point, and I ended up in college, where I earned a degree in English and French and a certificate that said I was capable of teaching high school students. For 30 years I managed to convince people I was.
Though I’d wanted to be a nurse, I couldn’t get a loan for nursing school. No telling how many lives were saved as a result. In the early years, if a class got unruly, I’d daydream of the pleasures of emptying bedpans while wearing a stiffly starched white uniform and cap.
During school vacations I worked in a bank and for a radio station, where I had the honor of reviving the Miss West Texas Rodeo Queen contest, though I knew nothing of contests and much less about rodeos. In fact, I’ve never worn a cowboy hat and the only boots I ever owned were tall, white leather zip-ups, circa 1970. The biggest compliment I ever got was when someone at my ten-year high school reunion asked if I’d been a cheerleader. I was about as far from being a cheerleader as Abilene was from El Paso. Remember, Texas is a big state.
I was single for many years, which provided me with countless adventures to fictionalize; i.e., pretend they happened to someone else. Sometimes they did.
At one point I added an M.A. to my credentials and taught college classes on the side.
MID-ACT SOLUTION, MIDPOINT CRISIS, RED HERRING SOLUTION, BLACK MOMENT, CULMINATING CRISIS:
If I were Homer writing the Odyssey, I’d tell you all about my Cyclops, Circes, and Sirens. You’ll have to trust me on this—my personal journey has had its share of black moments and red herrings. Maybe you’ll get the chance to read about them someday in a novel at your local bookstore.
My travels have taken me to England twice, Moscow (once was enough), Las Vegas, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Ohio, Mexico, all the states that border Texas, and probably some other places I’ve forgotten about.
HIGH POINT AND RESOLUTION:
I finally matured enough to find a good man who wanted to marry me (and stay married), though it took him almost seven years to ask.
Since I retired from teaching and moved to Central Texas, I’ve written feature stories for a magazine, taken voice lessons and Spanish classes, resumed playing the guitar poorly, worked with pet therapy, and learned to play mah jongg. I’ve also become the go-to person for computer solutions, though I know just enough to get into trouble.
My husband thinks I’ve had a rough life. I think I’ve lived fully, though I do have my share of regrets. One night on a movie set in West Texas, Aidan Quinn’s blue eyes pled with me to run away with him. I thought about it for a split second but knew my husband would be disappointed if I missed the pyrotechnic event that drew us to (real name) Funston in the first place. We waited until 4 a.m for the top to pop off a fake oil derrick. We both agreed it was anti-climactic. I’m not sure what Aidan thought. I never saw him again.
Nowadays, I live a quiet life with my husband and two dogs—Jolie Blon, a spoiled Cajun poodle; and Mardi Gras, a retired pet therapy dog. People call our area the Heart of Texas. Maybe that makes Abilene the armpit after all, though I never thought so. A friend of ours calls Waco the “Bermuda Triangle of News.” Since we moved here in 2002, we’ve heard the space shuttle blow up overhead, read about Baptist battles at Baylor, and dealt with the 43rd president’s do-dahs at his ranch in Crawford, a mere fifteen miles from here. But that’s okay. My husband is in the news business, so it’s kept him from getting bored.
As for me, I can’t complain. So far this year, I’ve won $18 playing mah jongg and completed another novel.
Who says happy endings don’t exist?