I grew up in a fogbank known as San Francisco’s Richmond district. As a child, I’d wake to the foghorns keening: A single high-pitched wail meant the fog wouldn’t burn off all day, so I’d reach for a book.
So it began, my life-long love of books. Being a reader was easy, but being a writer? That was another story (pun intended), as I was surrounded by some intimidating folks in my own family. My aunt Audrey wrote mystery novels under the pseudonym Francis Bonnamy and Audrey’s husband, Uncle Jay, was a brilliant journalist for The New York Times. Another uncle, Richard Steele, was a rare book expert and notable jazz critic. It wasn’t until my son and I, rooting through boxes in the attic, came upon an autobiography I’d written at thirteen that I read (with my son peering over my shoulder), “I want to be a writer or an artist when I grow up.” I’d managed to forget that for many years.
In high school, during the time that the impulse to write went underground, I found my niche in ballet and modern dance. As turbulent as those years were, dancing helped ground me, literally and figuratively.
I’d like to say that I went on to do something sensible, like becoming an accountant, or a plumber; instead, I graduated with a degree in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley. This qualified me to go to work for the Phone Company, and yes, in those days, there was only one.
After a year filling orders for PBX systems, I left California for New York City where I studied with modern dance legend Erick Hawkins. I found an apartment in a nice family slum with a tub in the kitchen and a tribe of durable roaches. Eking out a living as an illustrator for Butterick-Vogue patterns, I soon realized that darning my tights in a garret, while an improvement over the Phone Company, was not to my taste. I left New York for a more economically predictable life in Washington DC. Here I found a civilized city not unlike San Francisco, with Victorian architecture, nearby beaches, mountains, and vineyards. For me, the trick to a happy life in Washington was to steer clear of politicians. In the ensuing years, I had a varied and satisfying career in not-for-profit organizations, all the while nurturing my lust for literature, art, and dance.
Now, I live and write in Alexandria, Virginia with my husband Richard, son Nicolas, step-daughter Laura, and grandson, Sam. While they’re all great company, I can’t help wishing my aunt and uncles could be here to give me their wisdom and a nudge now and then.