This is an open letter to the people who gave shape to my “characters” in MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE, no matter how large or how small your role. From Beth to Professor Williams. Nina. Mean Tabitha. Colin. Tom.
You are about to find a character very similar to yourself personified in my book.
You may like the character you see, or you may not. You may believe that I have finally revealed my true feelings about you, and this is so, but not in the way you imagine. You may feel that I have misrepresented you, and this is certainly true as well. None of us are, today, who we were almost 30 years ago. Hallelujah. You may feel that I misrepresented who you were then, and I provide no argument. The book perhaps contains a literary rendition of how the 20-year-old version of me experienced the 20-year-old version of you. Real and invented stories in this book create a picture that is true when seen from a step back, as a whole.
Please know that if you find a blurry photograph of yourself in these pages, even if you feel it is unflattering, that a writer experiences this process as a profound act of love. And the process has been going on for 25 years. If I didn’t love you then, I do now. If I loved you then, I love you more. You have lived with me for 25 years, grown into me. You have been here with me all along when I slept and when I woke. You were there with me as I scratched the first draft of this book onto white notebook paper in the shade of a windy porch in 1997. You were there with me through marriages, a divorce, you were there when I learned to surf, as I learned new languages, as I wrote other books, a thousand poems, on cold dark mornings in Moses Lake where I sat at my computer breathing life into you, feeding you, laughing, crying, throwing pens across the room. You have been with me through my entire adult life, and you have been with me through death. You are with me now.
That’s what I want to say to you. I may have had to forgive you. I have had to forgive myself 1,000 times for my stupidities. Now perhaps you will have to forgive me.
I think we can do it. I think we can do the work.
This book maybe be classifiable as a “coming of age” story, but it is not about how to leap out of the nest and fly. It’s about realizing you have tumbled out and your points of reference are not where they belong. We were there together at this elemental moment. I have kept it safe and I am giving it back to all of us with a deep sense of reverence and love.
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