Discord In Harmony
A tale of love, duplicity, duty, deceit, and yes, discord and harmony
HomeReviewsRead An ExcerptAbout The AuthorAuthor InterviewSome Thoughts


The author with her Southern Mom & Northern Dad

I have to smile when I see that photo of me with my parents and older brother Leo. After all, I know now what a good sport my Mom was being. You see, my Dad, a stuntman for the movies, would often be away on location. And when I decided to arrive a week early, he was off filming a movie about the Civil War. (It was not his first Civil War movie; he had done stuntwork for Clark Gable in the 1939 epic, "Gone With The Wind" - or so our family lore goes.) When the studio found out that my Mom was a Southerner from Charleston, South Carolina, they decided it would be great press for the movie if they showed my Dad rushing home to see his newborn daughter, Alicia Grace, still wearing his Union Army uniform. I don't think it actually helped the movie any, but it did get us in the paper and for years provided me with something to brag about at school.

I don't remember much of the years when my Dad did stunts for the movies because in 1955 (I was only 5 then)he was badly injured in a stagecoach stunt and he never did stuntwork again. Having to provide for his family in some way, he turned to what he knew best - Western movies - and began writing screenplays. And so most of the memories I have of my Dad are not of watching him tumble off horses but rather watching his hand fly across pages and pages of yellow legal pads, his fingers gripping those #2 pencils so tightly that even when he was 82 and I held his hand in the hospital for the last time, I could still feel the indentation left behind by all those years of pencils.

My Dad was a terrific storyteller but not much of a businessman. Yet I never had the sense that he wasn't doing anything less than the most important work - even if he wasn't grabbing a briefcase and heading off to an office every day like the Dads of most of my friends. My Dad was a writer and to me that was akin to being some kind of god, a creator of words and sentences and stories - a creator of lives. And sometimes those lives were every bit as real to me as my own.

It is no surprise then, at least not to me, that from the first moment that I can remember holding a #2 pencil in my own hand, I wanted to be a writer. But what does surprise me sometimes is how long it took for all those words that I had written over the years to finally weave themselves into a story. What happened in between all those words, I guess, was my life.

But the statistics of my life seem somehow less important than the words that link all those dates and numbers and places together. For example, when I was nine I wrote a play that my brothers and I performed in the backyard for our parents. Now it wasn't easy being the middle sister of two rough and tumble brothers and I had to skin my knees a lot playing football and army and 'dirty apricot fights' just to keep up with them. So this play was not about any Barbie dolls. This play was about gruesome monsters from outer space.

It wasn't until I was fourteen that my softer side was able to surface in a Christmas play that I wrote for our eighth grade class to perform for the younger students. In fact, looking back on my early writing experiences, I'm amazed to realize that most of my writing was for skits and plays that my fellow students and I performed in front of student audiences. Makes me wonder now why I didn't go into playwriting. But maybe that's because in high school I developed a huge crush on my wonderfully handsome biology teacher, Mr. Kennedy. Needless to say, by my second semester I had changed my major to science and for the next three years probably my most creative writing could be found in the lovesick pages of my well-worn diary.

By my second year in college, however, science and I were not getting along. I hit walls in calculus and physics that were both unscalable and impenetrable. Yet, I barely noticed because I had once again fallen in love, this time with the man who would become my husband and the father of my children.

Funny, how time (or the perception of it)changes when you have children. And suddenly your priorities change as well and you're caught up in a whirlwind of all things baby and then toddler and then little girl, and before you know it, you're fundraising chair for the Cedargrove PTA, and your writing, what there is of it, is measured, not in chapters and endings and new chapters, but in stolen sentences between carpools and piano lessons and tennis matches. And the thing of it is, you wouldn't change it for anything and part of you feels guilty for not being the writer you think you should be - and part of you feels guilty for even thinking you should be anything but the mother to those wonderful beautiful children.


Spending Time With My Beautiful Grandchildren

But if you're lucky and the gods are smiling (or looking the other way), those children do grow up, and as heartwrenching as it may seem - and believe me, it seems that way - if you've done the job you were supposed to do, they actually become independent. And then your PTA days and carpool days are relegated to the crinkled pages of memory albums - and those stolen sentences of yours can actually become paragraphs and chapters and endings. And hopefully even new beginnings.

Well, at least until the grandkids come over.