Yesterday I was working on the finishing touches of the book about my mother, Mother Tongue. The final words are in her language. They are:
Ljubim te, Mama. Uvek.
They mean - I love you, Mama. Always.
I launched into that book when I imagined a conversation between my maternal grandparents as they were being forced to leave their homeland around 1920. This scene had to do with grapes on hillsides, roughhewn stone houses, Turkish coffee. A man who loved his daughters. A woman about to give birth to my mother.
This morning, with little forethought, I launched into a book about my father. It has no title yet. It will be a long time before I figure out what it is about. The first scene was triggered by something I wrote about recently, having to do with Greek islands, refugees, and the coincidence of my father's family fleeing 100 years ago to the same islands being populated in similar circumstances today.
The book begins with the family fleeing their homeland in 1920, as my father is three years old. Here's the first scene as it emerged from the fog of my mind this morning.
"God damn your mother. God damn all mothers in law. God damn the world. She can go back to Russia if she wants, she can go to hell if she wants," said Daria Pavlovna Romanova Amochaeva as her family stepped onto the bleak shore of Lemnos, an island in the Aegean Sea, a waypoint to an unknown destination, an end to a life as it had been lived for a thousand years. And her husband's mother still refused to get off the ship.
They say to write well you have to get in the minds of your character and just go for it. I doubt many people would get into their grandmother's mind and come up with that opening. But then, they didn't know my grandmother.
And I promise I did not orchestrate the weather pattern over San Francisco Bay for the last two days.