I had moved to San Francisco from Boston in late 1975, following my daughters, who were there with my soon-to-be ex-wife. Starting over as a writer/reporter there kept me on a tight budget.
That made Christmas a challenge; but I was ready. I had brought with me from Boston a portable sewing machine, and knew how to make it sew forward, backward & zig-zag. And somewhere I picked up the idea that I could use it to make quilts.
That’s what I did for the girls: with a trip to Goodwill, I filled a bag with discarded dresses of various patterns, colors and fabrics.
I took them apart with a seam ripper, arranged the pieces in blobs, pinned them on a backing sheet, and then zig-zagged them together; it took a couple of days. To further personalize them, I machine-embroidered their names in block letters on a plain patch.
The quilts weren’t exactly museum quality, but filled the bill. They were big enough to use through the elementary years, and my plan was for them to serve as connectors, that traveled with them from their mother’s place to mine. (I figured, correctly, that we would be bouncing from place to place for awhile to come.)
They seemed to work well for that. The girls were, I was assured, sleeping under them while I was away, and recalling where they came from.
So— returning to my story, I figured they should be in it too. The basic plot was standard: the girls transported magically to another world, trying to find their way back, over the opposition of an evil wizard.
And in this other world, where there was, of course, lots of magic, the quilts would be magic too: to start, I figured, they could fly. And I’d add stuff as needed for the story line.
The story line: that was work for the long bus ride. Now there was another world to get through: the planet of seedy Greyhound stations strung across the continent. But no, that was not for this story.
By the time I was hunkered down on Nantucket, I was ready to work on both these manuscripts.
And I did, in addition to my research. Peck, peck, peck, night after night. Novel pages went into a folder with carbon copies (remember them?) Thick envelopes for the girls slid into the mail slot. . . .
But now all that was 3000 miles away. And lots was happening in San Francisco; 1977 was a good year for political newcomers: a rising young mom named Nancy Pelosi was named chair of the northern California Democrats. Across the Bay in Oakland, Lionel Wilson was barnstorming to become the city’s first Black mayor. (He won.)
The only island I paid much attention to then was Alcatraz, sticking up out of the middle of the harbor near the Golden Gate Bridge. I wanted to visit, but there was no time. Instead I churned out articles, the paper ran them, and kept wanting more.
I still took as much time with the girls as I could; but the quilt story and its fantasy travelers were moving to the back of my crowded mental bus. It was getting hard to remember all the plot details I had worked out. But had they even paid much attention to it?
I found out one night, a few weeks after I got back, when Kiki lay staring up at me at bedtime, her brown eyes close to tears, and asked, after I once again had no new chapter to read, “But Daddy, are we ever going to get back home?”
I looked down at her, stunned.
OMG!What had I done?
Oh, how about leaving them marooned someplace on the other side of nowhere?
I gave her a hug, and told her not to worry. But I could see she really was worried.
There’s more to say about that, as we wrap up tomorrow . . . .