I suppose most fiction draws from the author’s life. Though I didn’t pattern my heroine after anyone, now that Dottie’s ready to meet the world, it’s clear she resembles my mom. Mom also waited at home for soldiers to return.
The actor James Dean from the Greatest Generation left an ironic quote. Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.
The World War II era forced people to embrace this philosophy. Imagine leaving for the war with high hopes of coming home and settling down with a wife and family. My mother’s brothers deployed to Europe, as did Dottie’s son. The brothers returned, but Dottie’s son Bill never did.
So Dottie was left with her memories and some mementos—her son’s high school letter jacket and the little-boy treasures she still keeps. Plenty of other Gold Star mothers shared the same sacrifice, but that camaraderie did little to reduce an individual’s pain. Those who’ve lost a child can identify.
Never one to dream big, when Dottie’s husband died near the war’s end, she took a local boarding house job. Cleaning and cooking for the male boarders gave her purpose. As for dreams? At that point, dreams seemed a bit much to expect of life.
Besides, Dottie wasn’t one for philosophizing. She found satisfaction in her work, and every evening, garnered strength for the next day. Dream as if you’ll live forever would’ve smacked of romanticism to this practical, down-to-earth heroine.
Yet life delivered some dreams to her doorstep. She never would have imagined the possibilities, or the changes she’d have to make—but one by one, she faced them.
Isn’t that what women do? It’s what my mom did.
Our stories are our best gifts, and blooming late has its advantages—the novel fodder never ends. Gail writes from northern Iowa, where she and her husband enjoy gardening and grandchildren. In winter, Arizona’s Ponderosa pine forests provide relief from Midwest weather and a whole raft of new people and stories. Gail’s memoir, Catching Up With Daylight, paved the way for fiction writing, and she’s so excited to announce the release of her debut women’s fiction novel, In This Together (Wild Rose Press/Vintage Line), on November 18, 2015. She hopes you’ll get to know Dottie and cheer for her on her post World War II journey. Also, please feel free to contact her—meeting new reading friends is the frosting on her cake!