The Bedrock Beneath My Feet

When I sat down to begin writing The Eye-Dancers, I’m not sure I realized straightaway that it would ultimately be a novel about home.

index

 

Indeed, if asked at the time, I probably would have said it was more about alienation, finding yourself, discovery, overcoming obstacles.  And make no mistake–alienation is a key theme in the story.  The four main characters–Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski–are in junior high, and for various reasons, each one often feels like a social outcast–not fitting in to that group, not comfortable in this group, not popular with the girls, never quite sure what to do or what to say when the cool kids are around.  Add to this the interdimensional journey they are forced to take, waking up in another world, another universe, and that sense of alienation is increased a thousandfold.

interdimensionalienate

 

But beyond this and at its core, deep within the soul of the novel, The Eye-Dancers is really a story about home–embracing it, remembering it, trying hard to return to it when everything seems hopeless and lost.  Keeping the faith that, with apologies to Thomas Wolfe, we can, in fact, go home again.

youcantgohomeagain

 

********************************

It’s nothing special, really, or remarkably distinct to the objective eye.  It’s just a simple ranch home–one of many–on a suburban street, three miles east of Rochester, New York.

rochester

 

It’s also the house where I was born, and where I grew up.

My parents were not the original homeowners, but they didn’t miss by much.  The house was built in the mid-1950s, during the construction boom of the post-World War II era, neighborhood streets filling in what had been, for generations, the farmlands and vineyards on the east side of the city.

farmlandandvineyards

 

When my mother and father moved in, it was 1965.  The original owner wanted to sell, to move away–no one knows or remembers why anymore, if they ever did.  My parents had been married five years, already had three children.  They weren’t planning on having a fourth, but I would come along, unexpected, unplanned, years later.

unplanned

 

The remarkable thing is–my mother and father still live in the old ranch house, on the same street, in the same neighborhood.  Many neighbors have come and gone–though a few, who go back to the time when my parents moved in five decades ago, have remained as well.  The house has undergone makeovers and paint jobs, additions and updates over the years–but it’s still the same house, overflowing with memories, echoes I can’t help but hear anytime I go back for a visit.

makeoversandpaintjobs

 

I am one of the lucky ones.  I know that.  While other children are uprooted, forced to move to a different state, different country, different hemisphere, forced to attend new schools and make new friends, my childhood was spent in one place, built on a sturdy and solid foundation.  It’s hard to imagine the old house belonging to anyone other than my parents.  That’s the way it has been since I’ve been in this world.  It seems almost an affront to picture it otherwise.  But one day, inevitably, it will happen.  I can visualize it even now:  Me returning to the old neighborhood, needing to see but not wanting to.  Stopping.  Pulling up the driveway.  Knocking at the door.

stonefoundation

 

“Hello?” someone would answer, peeking out at me, as if I were the intruder and not they, as if this house, with all the memories and love and traditions and childhood dreams and longings were somehow more theirs than mine.

“Sorry to bother you,” I’d say.  But what I’d want to say is, “Do you still have the old stone fireplace in the backyard?  You haven’t gotten rid of it, have you?  It was there when my parents moved in, so many years ago.  Or the scribbling down on the basement wall?  I scribbled those words there when I was ten–tucked away in a corner where no one could see them but me–unless they knew where to look.  And what about the first room down the hallway, on the left?  That was my bedroom, you know, back when I was a little kid . . .”

I came along in the 1970s, nearly a decade younger than my two brothers, eleven years younger than my sister.  I grew up in the ’80s, a Generation Xer, an interesting time to come of age.  The generation I was part of growing up, it seems to me, served as a bridge between the baby boomers who preceded us and the Millennials who would arrive on the scene later.  In the ’80s, things were becoming high-tech, with home computers and car phones and increasingly mind-blowing special effects when you plunked down your dollars and went to the movies.  But at the same time, vestiges of the past were all around.  The postal service was still how you contacted people when you wanted to write.  There was no email, no Internet, and certainly no smartphones or Eye-Dancers blogs!  It was a period of transition, of one generation waving to the previous one in its rearview mirror while at the same time paving the way for the super-tech, digitalized world to come.

aliens1986

 

And I spent it all at the house where I grew up, sitting on the land of old, forgotten vineyards and fields on Rochester’s east side, the ghost of them, the hushed, lingering whispers manifested by the grapevines we had in our backyard–later ripped up and pulled out in favor of a deck.

When the ’90s came along, and then the 21st century, I moved on, as we all must, and relocated to a neighboring state, a six-hour drive away.  But the home of my childhood is still there, my parents are still there, and every time I visit, I make sure to linger in a quiet moment, to listen, and remember.

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The Eye-Dancers came about from a dream I had when I was in high school.  The novel wouldn’t be written for many years, but the dream–that stayed with me and served as the impetus for everything that transpired in the story.

ghostgirl

 

It was the same dream Mitchell Brant experiences at the start of the book–waking up in the middle of the night, looking out into the street, seeing a ghost girl standing there . . . And when I wrote the scene, it was my old street I visualized–the street light shining through the airy, ethereal form of the girl the same one that still  stands just beyond the mailbox that I’d dash to on long-ago summer days when I saw the mail truck pull up and I was expecting something special to arrive.  The memories from childhood run deep, and, inevitably, bits and pieces flutter into the stories I write like magic confetti, sprinkling my present-day with vestiges from the past.

confetti

 

It’s funny how it is.  To strangers driving by, the old ranch would just be another house, nearly indistinguishable from a million others.  They may not even see it, nondescript as it is, blending in with the neighborhood, just a cog in the wheel, just one small part of the whole.  It brings to mind one of Kevin Arnold’s voice-over narrations in The Wonder Years, one of my all-time favorite shows . . .

thewonderyears

 

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat.  One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone.  But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.  I remember a place, a town, a house like other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets.  And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back . . . with wonder.”

wonder

 

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Angie
    Jun 10, 2016 @ 17:59:37

    Thanks for sharing, Mike. Reading this made me nostalgic of my own childhood. I remember when I used to write letters with a friend through the mail. I miss those days. And I used to love watching The Wonder Years, too. 🙂 I feel like pre-computer and high-tech days were so simple, but in some ways more enjoyable.

    Reply

  2. deborahanndykeman
    Jun 10, 2016 @ 19:41:37

    Another great post! Enjoyed reading more about your childhood. I loved The Wonder Years as well…a more simple time depicted…and very much like my growing up years.

    Reply

  3. leggypeggy
    Jun 11, 2016 @ 00:45:31

    Lovely to know about your home and how it (and a dream) inspired your writing.

    Reply

  4. Anna Waldherr
    Jun 12, 2016 @ 17:44:45

    Lovely.

    Reply

  5. Pearl Kirkby
    Jun 13, 2016 @ 01:57:14

    As I read this post, the similarities of life up to the late ’80s occurred to me, as, other than advances in media (colour television, VCRs, Blockbuster and HBO, in particular), life WAS still relatively simple for a child.

    I, myself, was born in 1954 and grew up for the first nearly 1/3 of my life in a lovely little 2 bedroom house in a WWII post-war housing community, built specifically for returning veterans of that war.

    I’ve traveled and lived in various states, and one other country, during my lifetime…and wound up back here in Florida, not 5 miles away from that little house…which I have visited 4 times in the past decade. I never fail to wax reminiscent afterwards.

    Thanks for such a wonderful post; I believe that most of us writers insert many of our life experiences and personalities (self or others) into our books…when we read, we are sharing another’s life!

    Eye-Dancers is next up on my Kindle reader, by the way. I look forward to reading it even more, now!

    Pearl.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 14, 2016 @ 18:14:47

      Wow–thank you.:) That’s great that you live so close to your childhood home, and you’re right–our experiences definitely end up in our stories–sometimes they are dressed up differently or presented differently, but they stem from the experiences of our lives. Sometimes, too, some of our experiences probably end up in our stories without us even consciously knowing it–part of the subconscious expressing itself in a literary way! And thanks so much for wanting to read The Eye-Dancers! That makes my day.:) I’ll certainly look forward to your thoughts when you have a chance to read it!

      Reply

      • Pearl Kirkby
        Jun 15, 2016 @ 13:14:12

        Not at all!

        I totally agree that subconcious memories & experiences play a great part as well. I’ve noticed that, as I develope some of my characters, they can be a combination of either a dozen different personalities ( including my own!), or a conglometation of my own ideals of “the perfectly rounded person”!

        I’ve just ‘opened’ my Kindle library this morning, to “Eye-Dancers”! Am anticipating a lazy, pleasant day of reading😀

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Jun 19, 2016 @ 19:15:02

        🙂

  6. jjspina
    Jun 14, 2016 @ 12:35:31

    Wonderful post, Mike! Always enjoy reading your posts. 😀

    Reply

  7. Ste J
    Jun 14, 2016 @ 15:51:49

    The joys of memory are a wonderful thing, a time capsule in one’s head that is richly layered. I was never into The Wonder Years, Iwas too young when I saw it and it was difficult to connect to the American way but not watching it did leave more time for reading so it was a win/win as that eventually led me here.

    Reply

  8. Sherri
    Jun 22, 2016 @ 14:36:56

    Ahh Mike, one of your classics here! I loved The Wonder Years. Nostalgia oozes from your writing making me think back not only to the happier parts of my early childhood in England, but to the years raising my children in America. To think, when I first moved to America in 1986 I too felt that rush of excitement every time I saw the mailman! Oh the joys of receiving an air-letter from home! You are indeed one of the lucky ones to have experienced such wonderful family stability with just as wonderful memories…that we get to read them here makes us lucky too! Great post Mike!

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 23, 2016 @ 12:42:49

      Thanks so much, Sherri! And you’re certainly right about postal mail being special back before the digital age.:) Today, even email is considered old-fashioned!:( People growing up today have the world at their fingertips, as it were, with access to anything they want on a mobile device. But (at the risk of sounding overly nostalgic), with all that advancement, I feel something may have been lost. I’m glad I grew up in the “stone ages”:)

      Reply

  9. carolineturriff
    Jun 24, 2016 @ 18:43:12

    What a beautiful post – the description of your childhood home is so resonant so loving you are lucky to have that level of stability in your life. My parents house was a nightmare after my father left my mother I thought I would be murdered in my bed. Now I have my own lovely home full of things I love and where I feel very safe.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jun 25, 2016 @ 00:36:07

      Thanks so much! Yes, I know full well I am one of the lucky ones. I was blessed to have such a stable childhood. I’m glad to hear your home is a wonderful place today.:)

      Reply

  10. Sparkyjen
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 18:56:32

    The house I grew up in (from 2 yrs. old) hasn’t been there for a very long time. My foster father sold it so that a slew of factories could move in. I still see the house in my mind’s eye though. I went back once to stand on the street any way. I had to chuckle because yes, I remembered the house, but I had the street name all wrong. It’s St. John’s Place, not St. John’s Street. I often wonder why this wasn’t emblazoned on my brain too. Many things have changed in Freeport, New York. No matter, I will always remember some of my best times living there. I just hope I’ve remembered more happy facts than happy fiction.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 01, 2016 @ 17:13:50

      Thanks so much for sharing that.:) It’s a perfect illustration of how powerful and comforting our memories can be. No wonder so many past experiences, and memories of emotions from past experiences, end up in the stories we write.

      Reply

  11. VanessaxGrace
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 19:53:28

    Hey Mike! Great post. I just finished working on a similar one, conveying the inspiration behind my book. The novice and introvert I am, I didn’t really understand that someone would care about all that, but seeing your post serves as confirmation. I do feel like I know you better. Good to “meet” you again 🙂

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Jul 02, 2016 @ 16:49:54

      🙂 Thanks so much, Vanessa! I actually love learning about the “story behind the story,” as it were–always very interesting! And it’s good to “meet” you again too.:) Always such a treat hearing from you, Vanessa, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

      Reply

  12. Trackback: Fellow Bloggers who Motivate and Encourage me in a Surprising Way #1. – femininematerz

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