I grew up in Woodstock, Illinois, barefoot and carefree and surrounded by cousins. My grandmother butchered her own chickens and rung out the wash by hand. My great-grandfather fermented sauerkraut in a big ceramic pot that stunk up the neighborhood. My mother and my aunts were in-home hairdressers and my uncle ran the printing press for the local newspaper until he was crushed to death when it fell on him.
Saturday mornings the men did lawn work and the women did hair, while my cousins and I crawled around closets and attic spaces in search of ghosts and forgotten artifacts that might be worth millions. We rode our bikes with a pack of neighborhood hooligans called the Ramone brothers (Really!) and hung out in an off-limits area of the rock quarry on the outskirts of town.
I spent summer vacations at the public swimming pool working on cool flips off the high dive, highlighting my hair with lemon juice, and eating frozen Charleston Chews with my best friend, Beth. I watched Quincy and Donahue and read Stephen King books in the dark. I listened in on beauty parlor gossip and bedroom talk. I often put a glass to the wall when I stay in hotels to extract the secrets of strangers and weave their stories into my writing, finding that the cheaper the lodging, the richer the tale.
My love for writing bloomed in fifth grade when I wrote a limerick about my family for a Heritage Unit and was named Most Likely to Become a Famous Poet by my all-time favorite teacher, Mr. May. As a writer/storyteller himself, he instinctively knew that the writing assignment had sparked a passion within me, even though I never, ever would have admitted that to anyone back then.
Although I write in several different genre categories, all of my stories draw from the underbelly of small town life, its quirky citizens, its scandals, its bleakness, beauty, and resilience.
Kelly this brought back lots of memories of Woodstock and growing up in our wonderful little town. I am looking forward reading more of your posts.
Love this story. Brings back memories of all of you enjoying the outdoors and learning without all the technical stuff the kids use today. Woodstock was a great place to grow up!
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Kel, this is great! i love how you described Woodstock and your family. You have always been so incredibly talented. I am a fan!