My essay, Trust Yourself,” appears in the fall 2015 issue of Northwestern, the alumni magazine of Northwestern University. It’s about my friendship years ago, with one of my first grade Sunday School students. Since that period of time, that student, Qu’Amere, has done quite well. He’s now an adult. He graduated from college this year and has become a preschool teacher. We stay in contact. When I was back in my hometown, Bridgeport, Connecticut, over the Christmas holiday, he stopped in to say hello.
People often ask me where I get the ideas for my stories. In fact, the members of my church book club asked me that question the other day. There’s an interesting story behind “Initiation,” my short story that has just been published in Vermont Literary Review. A few years ago on a visit to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to spend the holidays with my parents, my mother and I went to the mall to Christmas shop. The list of gifts for my niece and nephew was so long that our backs were hurting from carrying around the shopping bags. My solution was to periodically drop the bags into the trunk of my car, which was on the roof of the parking garage. You can guess what happened. After the last trip to the car, while my mother and I continued shopping, someone took a crow bar to pop the trunk open and stole everything: coats, toys, shoes. My mother and I were in tears. Of course, the items were never recovered.
A few months later I thought about fictionalizing the event. I asked myself what would happen if a mother and daughter had their Christmas gifts stolen from the trunk of the car at the mall, discovered who the thieves were, but then realized that if they revealed who the thieves were, mother and daughter would lose out on something they both desperately wanted. That’s the story behind “Initiation.”