Aloysius Haden Mann served as a bombardier in the Royal Canadian Airforce. His name alone pulls you right in, doesn't? Add in that he was handsome as they come and had a tremendous laugh, and his is a story that you'd want to read. If someone could do it justice, a novel about a young man from the Maritimes who would fall in love with Blitz-era London and suffer through the blistering airstrips in North Africa could be unforgettable. My grandfather died in 1991 and he never told his grandchildren his war stories. He was, however, a writer. And thankfully, my grandmother was a typist since it would take a wife's devotion to decipher his handwriting.
This Memorial Day morning while the rains fell soft over upstate New York, my grandfather's home on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick seems just as far away as those targets he bombed in Germany and Italy. But still, I woke with him on my mind. I riffled through the boxes of papers that included my ballet recital programs, college papers, and a single folder of first drafts.
My grandfather was a writer, yes. He returned from overseas to get a degree in journalism at St. Mary's in Halifax. And then he moved to Boston with his new bride to work for a newspaper that would fold within months of their arrival. The next forty years would be spent trying to find work and raise a family in the States, not chasing bylines.
But he left behind just enough of his memoir-in-progress. He left enough to help us remember and make me cry and to inspire me to pick up his story in my own voice (someday).
It was in the '30s. A time when the world seemed troubled and uncertain. The world was still deep into the Great Depression. My friends and I sought refuge in what was to become known as "The Monkey Pasture." Actually, it was a cow pasture, where Kate Reid pastured her cow, and Kate drew many a summer bucket from the spring in the gully which adjoined it. Kate was the one who referred to us as "monkeys" because we disturbed her cow while playing a ball game.
It was here that we discussed life, love, sex, friendship, sports, etc. It was here we were slowly and naturally initiated into those troubled first years of puberty. I was here that my mother picked her May Flowers in her Sunday afternoon walks, filling every room in the house with the month of May.
An unavoidable fact about the childhoods of our time was our innocence. Our likeliest crime was a misdemeanor - on the order of soaping our neighbors' windows on Hallowe'en, raiding an apple orchard, or a farmer's garden to pick an ear of.
It all seemed so innocent. The world seemed to be marking time. World War II seemed ready to explode - around the corner, but not quite come into view.
One by one, the "monkeys" enlisted and left the pasture, some of them never to return.
The age of innocence was over.
Storytelling is part of my lineage. And I would love to share my knowledge with you. Please join me for the free online class on June 1 and discover how the Story Triangle will transform how you connect with readers.