We all need a place to feel safe. For most of us, it’s our home. After a lousy day at work or a dismal day at school, home is a beacon. But what if home doesn’t offer safety? In this passage from Pages in the Wind, eight-year old Emily, talks about her safe place – Grandma’s house:
The faint glow of the late afternoon sun touched my face as I jumped out of the car. Birch trees quivered in the breeze, and the scent of damp pine needles and cedar reminded me of Christmas. The fruit groves, giant evergreens, and fields of wild clovers and moss surrounded the old wood and stone craftsman home like an enchanted forest. I gushed with giggles and short squeals knowing the day had finally arrived. I couldn’t wait to spend a month with Grandma.
Unfortunately for little Emily, her safe place only lasts a month. In this scene, she prepares to say goodbye to Grandma, and return to San Francisco with her parents:
Early the next morning, the family gathered at the front door saying their goodbyes. I stood back, dabbing my eyes.
Grandma sat eye-level with me. “My precious bébé. We’ll be together soon. Next time I will teach you to make crepe cakes.”
My chest heaved as I caught each whimper and reined them back to talk to her. I gazed into her soft blue eyes, already thinking about next August. She had no idea why going home was killing me—I didn’t even know. “I’ll write you every day, Grandma. My hand never gets tired. I’ll draw you beautiful pictures too.” I grabbed her hand, wondering if it was too late to squeeze it twice.
Father pushed me aside. “That’s enough. Leave your grandma alone.”
I love the sibling relationship between Emily and Robert in Pages in the Wind. I think it’s especially important in an intense book. We need someone to count on. In this excerpt, the tender relationship is defined:
I heard Robert grab his keys and leave the house. I pressed my palms against my eyes to snuff out the tears. I felt happy and sad. I was happy he’d convinced me my drawings were good but sad because I knew in my heart he had chosen Harvard.
I couldn’t tell him a cockamamie story to trick him into staying. It would have benefitted me, but I couldn’t do that to him. When Father put the negatives in my head and Mother gutted me with disinterest, Robert had been there to fill my head with mirthful sonnets to breathe hope into my tired soul.
Now, I had to go it alone because my sweet brother would be moving to Boston.
She’s not a villain. She’s not even mean. Claire doesn’t neglect her duties. She educates her children and gives them cultural advantages. She decorates her daughter’s bedroom with beautiful French decor. She studies the teen magazines to make sure her child is dressed in the latest trends. But…you won’t love her. You probably won’t even like her. She’s Claire in Pages in the Wind.
In this excerpt, a neighbor compliments Emily’s artwork. Eager to get her mother’s opinion, she raises the subject. Here it is:
“Of course you can draw, dear. Anyone can draw but drawing doesn’t make you an artist. Art is extremely competitive, and most artists don’t make a decent living.”
“But I could study art in college and get better, right? I could learn how to paint and sell my paintings at shows and stuff?”
“There are other ways to use art, dear. You can study art history or become a librarian. If you want to use your hands, you can go to beauty school and become a hairdresser. There are many careers you can choose if you like art.”
I gawked at her, speechless. She delivered the verdict and the punishment at the same time. She might as well have said, “No, you have no talent, and put away your sketchpad and do my hair.”
She smiled and returned to the countertop. She picked up a can of Pledge, polishing the wood to a yellowish-brown patina. I watched her shine the teak counter to perfection, but she had thrown enough muck on me to sully a landfill. I retreated to my bedroom.