Updated: Sep 20
I have never really felt as though I belonged. At first I believed my sense of displacement was chronological, owing largely to my reading (and falling in love with) Little House in the Big Woods when I was six years old. A feeling confirmed by Anne of Green Gables shortly thereafter. I was born a century too early.
But when a German exchange student came to live with my family the summer after my sophomore year of high school, I fell in love again, and became convinced that my displacement was geographical. By the time I left home for college at the age of seventeen, armed only with six years of public school French, I had developed a wanderlust so ferocious I refused to put down roots until after the birth of my son.
Now, twenty-six residences, four countries, and five states later, I find myself in Boston, in love again, and content to remain still.
My love affair with Boston began gradually, however. The plan was to earn my MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and leave. Fifteen years have passed, and now I’m the happy owner of a first-floor apartment in a triple decker in JP. My home is a hundred years old. And while such a statement won’t raise any eyebrows in Boston, I grew up in 1980’s tract housing in a middle-class suburb of San Francisco, where our only claims to antiquity were the oak trees and the rolling hills that changed from kelly green to gold with the season. Sometimes I look at the dings in my hardwood floors and wonder who put them there and when. My tub once washed soot from coal fires down the drain.
I play a similar game with the pennies I find on the street. And there are a lot of them. I’ve even heard people admit with pride that they despise pennies and willfully throw them away. I don’t understand this. Partly because I grew up in a predominantly blue-collar family with one grandmother who carefully washed and folded her Ziploc bags and another who ate gratefully the hearts of chickens. And partly because I love pennies, especially the old ones. I love reading their dates and holding them in my hand, imagining where they’ve been and the people and places they’ve seen, and I love the serendipity of finding them in the first place.
My forthcoming novel, Fatechanger, combines my sense of displacement with my love of Boston. And history. And pennies. It proves that we all belong somewhere and that nobody should be dismissed or discarded, our worth underestimated, our stories misunderstood.