Country of the Mind

Thea Devine today. On this past Monday morning, around 11am, we drove into town for the annual Memorial Day parade. Perfect day: bright sun, blue sky, warm weather, fresh breeze — and people. Town was jam-packed with people all along Main Street, two, three, five deep, and there wasn’t a place to park anywhere near. We finally got a spot in a little field about a quarter mile from Main Street and joined a crowd hiking toward to the main event.

It hadn’t started yet, but the staggering number of people lining the street was an event in itself. Kids, parents, teens, tweens, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, grandparents, town officials all merging and mingling, looking for friends, space, refreshments, for the parade to begin.

This, I thought, was the essence of why hearth and home books resonate so vibrantly in romance. This is the country of the mind; it is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, a place that exists in the imagination, in the heart, and sometimes in life.

A place, perhaps, one has been seeking without even knowing it. The place you know is home in a deep visceral way, even if you don’t want to admit it.

In fiction, it takes a good three hundred pages for the heroine to come to terms and admit it. The reader is already there, because those tropes tap into our deepest desire for community and acceptance in a place where everybody knows who you are. Your family, as it were.

Standing on the sidelines and watching the parade — the bands, the old timey cars, the re-enactors, the antique fire trucks, the members of the Service clubs, the staff of the Library, everyone who marched — I turned to John and whispered, I love this place.

I do … love this place. I feel like the heroine who has finally found her home. I’ve had deep yearnings to gather my cousins here, in my place, so we can be as close as our families were when I was growing up in Brooklyn and Sunday was mandatory visit grandma day.

But a visit or an email isn’t quite the same as noisy family dinner on a Saturday night. Like any beleaguered heroine, I never thought I’d miss that after all these years, or wish I could recreate those times. I’m sad my sons will never experience them too.

After the parade was over, everyone poured into the street which had turned into a traffic-free plaza — either to meet friends, or see who was there, or to wend their way to where they’d parked, stopping to chat with neighbors, friends, parade participants, along the way.

I took lots of pictures, grateful this wasn’t the small town of my imagination, or a small fictional town in a future novel I might write. It was my town, here and now, my place, my home.

Did you go to your Memorial Day Parade? Do you feel like you’ve found your place, your home? Is it what or where you thought it would be?

PS re: RT. I’m pleased to say I was one of the thirty- year “pioneer” authors honored by RT at this year’s convention in Kansas City. It was a well attended convention, I heard estimates of as many as 1500-2000 attendees, and there was a spectacular number of workshops to suit every taste, every genre and every level of experience, plus receptions, parties, meet and greets and a special fan event.

The big booksigning was HUGE and swarming with avid readers. The hotel was lovely with lots of places to sit and chat. The 30th Anniversary Gala was fun; we were all asked to say a few words to the attendees after Kathryn Falk spoke about the thirty years that Romantic Times had been a force in the industry.. You might have heard EL James was there — she was, but I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her. I had a wonderful time.

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4 thoughts on “Country of the Mind”

  1. Beautifully written as usual, Thea. You had me at “This is the country of the mind; it is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, a place that exists in the imagination, in the heart, and sometimes in life.” I live in a very tiny town (about 500) The population doubles in the summer with all the lake homes and camp grounds filling up. We have events like Black Fly day when we celebrate the departure of the little beasts on June 1st, have weekly concerts on the green all summer, and the Granville Harvest Fair on Columbus Day weekend brings in ten’s of thousands of fair-goers. As you said, “I feel like the heroine who has finally found her home.” I do love it here:-) Thanks for the reminder of why!

  2. If I may quote Paula, “beautifully written as usual.” I smiled through the whole post. I did not attend our town parade, but I can appreciate those memories your write about, being Norman Rockwell’s come alive. I proudly marched in those parades dressed in my Girl Scout Leader’s uniform with my sweet troop of Brownies and Girl Scouts marching along. I too grew up in Brooklyn (Boro Park) and we all visited Grandma on Sunday. The tradition carried forward to my children. My children, now all married with grown ones of their own, do not come on Sunday. We have to make dates, all done mostly through emails and telephone conversations. It is tough to gather everyone together. Good thing we have birthdays, seems they evoke a gathering. Next week, we have graduations. There are so many grandkids, there is always a celebration of sorts. So visits take place surrounding those celebrations. Family gatherings are the Norman Rockwell’s you speak about.

    1. Thanks everyone. I appreciate all your kind words and memories. All bedrock on which to write book.

      Thea

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