|Daughter Hannah with Mom|
On the 18th of January, our wonderful mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister and aunt, Lorraine Benson, died. She was ill for only a short period of time but, thankfully, I was able to fly to the US and spend the final days of her life at her bedside, along with my brother and sister.
Losing a beloved parent is never easy, but my brother, sister and I have been luckier than many. Mom lived to a ripe old age (although, as she said on her last birthday, "90 is the new 80", so she probably would have relished a few more years). She gave us decades of love, support and attention, and was great company until the very end.
I am so happy that my mother lived long enough to see my book published, especially as she was an avid reader with wide-ranging taste in literature, film, theatre and music. The fact that she loved "At Yellow Lake" makes me prouder than anything else to do with the book.
And, of course, it was her book in many ways. Her father built the real cabin on Yellow Lake. She (along with my father) took care of the place for many years, and helped make it such a special place for my family and friends. As a child growing up in the Great Depression, Mom experienced dislocation and financial uncertainty; the cabin (which was deeded to her uncle during the very lean years) was her only steady "home" at that time, even though it was only inhabitable during the summer months, and was, until my grandfather's business became less precarious, no more than a souped-up ice storage shed.
As I said, Mom was great company. She loved to talk (as well as listen) and was a great story-teller. Her words helped me imagine the past--her past, her family's past. Her Grandmother Hanson (in ghostly form) even made it into the final draft of At Yellow Lake!
I remember Frank Cottrell Boyce, at the 2011 SCBWI Conference in Winchester, saying that writing is, essentially, a paying back and a playing forward. What my parents gave me can never be repaid, but I know that they are both still part of my writing life, in terms of the stories I chose to tell, and in the characters and settings I use.
More importantly, like all good parents (and probably bad parents, too!) they are both part of my wider life and relationships. I'm not sure if I disagree entirely with Philip Larkin's famous adage (look it up, kids!) but I know that my parents gave me nothing but the good bits--the bad bits were all my own work!
Thanks for everything, Mom