|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.