When I was a youth I went to a camp for the arts called Usdan. It was pretty hard-core for pre-teens and for summer: you had a major and a minor. One summer I majored in chorus even though I couldn’t sing. I really, really wanted to sing, and I thought if I practiced enough I would sing well.
So, so wrong.
It was horrible being with a group of singers when I had no natural ability. Even worse when they did a cast call for their annual show, and I couldn’t get a role except in the ensemble background where all the castoffs wind up.
Such a bad memory that I packed it up somewhere in my brain, where it only popped out the other day as I told a friend about going to Usdan.
Suddenly I remembered: I was in The Wizard of Oz!
Seriously, if you’d asked me about my experience with the story prior to writing Melt, I would’ve limited it to movie viewing. It’s crazy that I spent the better part of the summer living in Emerald City (yes, I was one of those people – not even a Munchkin!) and blocked it all out. Now I remember the painful audition. Singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow was an impossibility with my low octave voice, so I could never even hope to be Dorothy. I tried out for the Cowardly Lion.
The memories are still fuzzy – I think my brain is trying to shield me. It was a summer when I had to face that I didn’t fit in – that I was in the wrong place and possibly might never find any place for me. In my heart I knew I was a writer but God that was so interior, I was such an outsider. I wanted to be among friends. I wanted a gang, I wanted what I felt was lacking in my life: a home.
But now, especially after writing Melt and my previous novels which have all referenced The Wizard of Oz, I know: home is a metaphor, and a morphing one at that.
Home is everywhere and nowhere. No one can give it or take it away. It is everything and it is nothing. It is a word, and what we make of that word. Perhaps we make it too much, or perhaps I just wish that were the case.
I don’t have the answers. I just pose the questions, and the rest is up to each of us.
See you along the Yellow Brick Road.