Monday, September 7, 2015

My Tennessee

Grandma's Kitchen and Kitties
I have a book out this month. Owen’s Best Intentions, second in the Smoky Mountain Series, is set in one of my favorite places in the whole world, Bliss, Tennessee—which I made up.
I sort of made it up. When I was ten, my parents split up, and my brothers and I moved to Tennessee to live near my mother’s family. I remember that day as if I were walking into my grandmother’s kitchen right this very minute on that cold, December morning.
We were from Tybee Island, Georgia, and we'd visited Tennessee, but to a kid, that seemed like a drive of Lord of the Rings-type proportions. So I went from a kind of clammy, cloudy day on Tybee, to a morning where we got out of my grandfather’s truck and walked into the wreaths of our own breath. Frost had turned the ground white and spiky. I wasn’t sure it wasn’t snow because I’d only seen snow once, and it all melted by noon.
It was scary. I loved my grandparents, but they weren’t the ones I knew best. I missed my father and my other grandparents and my dog. Stepping into that frost-laced world, I kind of hated the bitter cold and the way my grandma’s metal screen door stuck to my sweaty palm, and the fact that we were a broken family when that was not only uncommon, but just a little shaming.
The kitchen door didn’t open. It was locked.
We waited, five scrawny children and the daughter of the family, and her father, who’d just picked us all up.
Seconds went by. We breathed more smoke, and I looked out over the yard at the trimmed-back plants, slathered in frost, and in the distance, bony trees—all wreathed in the blue-white smoke of the mountains that cradled my mother’s family from birth.
Debbie and Me in Grandma's Yard
The door opened, and there was my grandma. And she knew how to love. Her smile turned into crying, and she hugged us so tightly I felt safe—no mean feat when you’re talking five children and her own kind of broken daughter.
Grandma turned on the stove, whipped out the iron skillet, made hash browns out of this crazy grinder thing that apparently turned potatoes into ambrosia, and started all of us on the way to life as we’d learn to know it.
That alarming day became cozy, because after Grandma opened her door, our whole family came to visit--including the one other girl in our generation of twelve boys. We had to be each other's sisters. I never had a sister before.
That cold was crazy. The smoke—grandma explained. I thought there were fires. That morning became the kind of morning I love best, the signal that fall is coming and the world is going to wrap me in the warmth I love best. The warmth of my family’s love while the world rests outside.
My Owen, with the best intentions, is facing unbelievable decisions when his story opens on a life-changing New Year's Eve in Bliss, Tennessee. I hope you'll look in and see how he does.
And can I ask, what's your favorite time of year? I'd love to give away two copies of the first Smoky Mountains book, Now She's Back to a couple of commenters, so, please--tell me what you love one season more than others.



35 comments:

  1. Oh what a story Anna. That's some grandma you have. They always seem to have the ability to make us feel safe when everything around us seems to be falling apart. I had a grandmother like that. I miss her so much.
    Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the array of warm colors, the temperature that is not too cold and not too hot, the pumpkins and the wonderful smells of cinnamon, apples and spice. It's the best time to cuddle up with a good book. It's just perfect. Summer is too hot, winter too cold and bleak, and my allergies are on overdrive in Spring. The mountains and Fall are my favorite combination. In fact, I'm off to the mountains soon and I'll be taking Now She's Back with me. ( :

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    1. She was some grandma, Laurie. A strong, kind woman who could do literally anything. She built sleds for us children. She'd see a dress she liked and she'd make herself a pattern. She painted and gardened and did any kind of needlework. If she could think it, she could do it.

      You make me even more happy Autumn is finally coming--and I have a visit home scheduled! It's always so nice to see your name pop up. I hope things are going well with you and yours, and I know you'll enjoy your time in the mountains. Hope we both get some wonderful leaf change!

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  2. That is such a touching story, Anna. I wish I would have known my grandmothers, but I lost them both when I was young.

    My favorite season is fall, too. Laurie said it so beautifully above, I won't repeat the reasons she listed, but I will add: no bugs! I love to be outside and it's nice to be able to go into the forest (or even our own backyard), and not be bothered by black flies, deer flies or mosquitos.

    Best wishes with your new release, Anna!

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    1. Kate, I'm sorry you didn't get time with your grandmothers. Mine probably taught me a lot of the good stuff you're supposed to know. I've always been sorry they didn't live long enough for my children to know them. The TN grandma loved the outdoors, and I know she and my son would have shared that. I'd like to think of them hiking together in the Smokies!

      Do you live in the north? We lived in Maine for a while. Those deer flies--I've seen them carrying off cars! :-) (Well, maybe that's an exaggeration!)

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  3. What a beautiful story, or maybe it's the way you told it.

    Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, but I grew into that. When I was young, I loved the extremes of summer and winter--now I don't like much of anything that's extreme. And yes, the reasons Laurie gave cover it. Thanks, Laurie!

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    1. Liz, my daughter is like you--loves spring and fall, but summer and winter begin to wear on her. I could have half a year of fall and half of winter! Spring is beautiful, but it always reminds me the heat is coming. That heat... ;-)

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  4. What a beautiful tribute to you grandmother. I never knew mine since they died before I was born, but I've had a couple of older women who served in their place.
    My favorite season has always been fall. I love the blue of the October sky and the crispness in the air. But because of our recent winters, though, spring is fast becoming another favorite. :-)

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    1. Patricia, I wish I could have shared my grandmothers with you. I had two of the best! I totally agree with you about the crisp air. Can't wait to get off the treadmill and do my walking outside! You know, I hear the rest of the country's had bad weather, but except for our infamous 2-inch-snowpocalypse, we've had nothing. I'd love some snow for a change!

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  5. Anna, your story is so beautifully written and endearing I feel you should write it as a book! What an incredible woman she must have been and how blessed you were to have known her. I can't ws to read your book! I adore those mountains any time, but autumn is my favorite season as well. Yes , Laurie stated it perfectly. I'm on autumn overdrive wanting o put up my fall wreaths and garlands this week. I know, I'm one of those people who does not turn a sour face when the fall decorations hit the stores in late August. I'm looking for pumpkin flavored creamer for my coffee now! Lovely post. I wish you the best with it!

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    1. Thank you, Catherine. I'd love to find a way to do that. I did borrow our family's Thanksgiving traditions for Now She's Back. We always know in our family how blessed we were to have Grandma. And I'm with you--I can't see the fall decorations show up early enough. Autumn makes the world cozy. Hope you find that pumpkin creamer!

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  6. Anna, thank you so much for this post. Makes me remember my grandmother in loving technicolor. I think your grandmother would be thrilled to know you still think back on that time with such fondness. :) I'm definitely an autumn girl...just before it gets so cold you need a jacket, but where the sun shines. :) Congrats on Owen's Best Intentions! It's on my TBR pile

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    1. Thanks, Anna! That would have been a much worse time without Grandma. Like you, I love wearing jackets! I just bought a new sweater because I have high hopes that this heat will wane someday soon! Thanks for giving Owen a try! ;-)

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  7. I love this! So beautifully told - straight from the heart. I also adore fall, though the brief season here in TX barely resembles the glorious autumn I remember from upstate NY.

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    1. Hey, Karen! Thanks for stopping by! We should take a writing retreat road trip through New England some day. Wouldn't that be lovely? Writing, chatting with one of my favorite people, and autumn! Yay!

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  8. Anna - your story is so beautifully told. I was standing in front of the screen door with you, waiting - as though it was the doorway to the next part of your life. And it sounds like it sort of was. My maternal grandmother was gone when I came along, and my dad's mother died when I was four. Your story makes me want to make sure I'm a memorable grandmother. I love summer best because I'm on the Oregon coast where it seldom gets hotted than 80 degrees. Fall is beautiful, and I do love those decorations, too, but it's a harbinger of the cold, wet winter. Loved this, Anna.

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    1. Hotted? That sounds like a word, but of course I mean, hotter.

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    2. Hey, Muriel. That's exactly what it was, and it wasn't the only time my grandmother helped me through a difficult doorway either. I know your grandbabies are going to love you like we loved ours! I think my family is visiting Oregon next spring. It sounds perfect to me, and I've never been there so I'm really looking forward to it!

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  9. Your grandmother sounds a lot like mine, ready at a moment's notice to feed body or soul.

    Wherever I've lived, I've always loved fall: back-to school supplies, crisp air, and autumn leaves. When I was a kid, it was the sycamore in our backyard that make lovely leaves, In Wyoming, the aspens turned golden and "quaked" in the slightest breeze (and there was always a breeze). Oklahoma had a maple and an oak, Alaska has birches and mountain ash, and in high country Arizona, we're back to Aspens. I suspect in Tennessee, you'd have a whole orchestra of autumn leaves. Bliss, indeed.

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    1. Beth, we do have lovely Tennesseean autumns, but I'd love to see those aspens quaking in Wyoming. We just planted an Autumn Blaze Red Maple in our front yard--in what we used to call the Flowerbed of Doom. I can't wait to see it grow. It's supposed to have red leaves that last longest into the season. But we don't get breezes like the ones that blast through the plains or the high desert.

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  10. Your remembrances are endearing. I can picture all of it. Fall used to be my favorite season, back when leaves were turning brilliant colors and I lived on the east coast. Don’t really have a favorite any more now that nothing much changes in Arizona but the temperature.

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    1. Marion, I didn't know you lived in Arizona. I'd love to hear how you ended up there. The husband wanted to move there when he retired, but I couldn't bear the thought of the heat and no change of seasons. I still think he got the advantage because it's hot here! Hope you're having a great Labor Day there in Arizona!

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  11. I loved your story, Anna and identified with your unease with your family breaking up - how uncommon and a little shameful-feeling at the time as I went through that, too. Your description of Tennessee is so incredible you put me right there- those are some awesome writing skill, lady! Bliss sounds like a place I need to visit by starting your series- stat!

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I hate that you went through that, too. Maybe it turned us into writers? :-) I hope, if you visit Bliss, you'll enjoy your stay there! :-)

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  12. What a beautiful story, Anna. My only living grandmother when I was a kid, lived in West Virginia. Your description of Tennessee sounds similar. I recall the smell of smoke, but more so, her fried chicken. It was the best. :) My favorite seasons are spring and fall. Unfortunately, here in Charlotte, our spring always seems short lived, once that humidity takes hold. I'm really looking forward to reading your Smoky Mountains series. Congratulations!

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    1. Jill, have you read Suzanne McMinn's Chickens in the Road Blog? I started reading it when we still lived in TX, and it made me so homesick because she's gone home to West Virginia. Mmmm. Fried chicken. We have the same weather as you. In face, I imagine we're slightly more humid and hotter down here. Spring this year went straight from hot and humid to--the sun has landed on the earth! Ready for some lovely fall!

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    2. No, I haven't read Suzanne's book, Anna. I'll have to check it out. Love the title!

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  13. Thanks, everyone, for dropping by on Labor Day! I loved chatting! I'll come back by tomorrow to choose winners for Now She's Back.

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  14. Lovely story, cousin. Grandma was a truly special woman, so talented and patient. She would be SO proud of you and your writing (as am I).

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    1. Thanks, Daryl! Grandma was all of that, and I hope she would have been proud. You make me happy because you're proud. Love you!

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  15. Late, but I had to say your post was so beautifully written and so very moving. It's a testament to the fact that you're a gifted writer and I have to agree with other comments in that your experiences give depth to your storytelling.

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    1. Thank you, Rula. That means so much coming from a writer whose work is poetic prose to me. I love that writing has brought us all together!

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  17. Beth and Laurie, would you guys like a book? Beth, would you like Now She's Back in e or print format? Since Laurie already has a copy of Now She's Back, I can offer you both a choice of one of my books or a $5 Amazon gift card. Let me know at aebadams@gmail.com! Thanks for dropping by!

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