Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Chuck and Five Wild Girls--Can Never Go Home Again


Karen and Caroline relaxing before the arduous pilgrimage to our hometown.

This is me, your blogger, relaxing in my sister's new luxurious tent.

My sister, Cheryl, relaxing before we make the long journey back to our childhood home.

Our youngest sister Cyndi relaxing before we leave.

        You can never go home again.
The moment I said something to Chuck about what I wanted to do, he gave one of his low guttural moans.  
        Bad idea.  
How many poets, authors, and I guess people who are a lot smarter than me would have agreed with my rascal cat?
So why didn’t I listen?
No, instead, I talked my four sisters, my four wild sisters, and my rascal cat into pilgrimaging back to our hometown--a tiny no nothing town in New Jersey--yes, Bruce Springsteen land--no, we’re not on the Jersey shore but close enough to it --yeah--to revisit our old haunts because it was the tenth anniversary of our father’s death--and we wanted to somehow pay tribute.  
We would visit the house we’d grown up in, the church we’d attended as kids, the school we’d gone to, and the cemetery that now held the remains of our parents.  
So we met at my sister’s house, piled into my other sister’s car--which was big enough to hold all of us (although the minute we squeezed in, Chuck let out a SIGH that reverberated off the leather seating) and we set off for lunch--our first stop.  Food to nourish the soul and to give us time to plan our itinerary.  
We decided to go to a diner, which we’d gone to growing up and which was still there.  Thank God.  Because, of course, I was already dreading that so many things would be different . . . changed . . . since we’d last been to South _________.  So we pulled up --anticipating the food would be less than, well, perhaps a little too GREASY.  Determined to ignore that aspect, we each ordered some type of sandwich because every sandwich came with--and had come with for over 50 years--cucumber salad and coleslaw.  That was the traditional appetizer that we longed to eat.
The waitress arrived and plopped the cucumber salads down.  What??  My first disappointment.  
I wasn’t going to say anything, but then I couldn’t hold it in. 
“It’s disgusting.  They put the cucumber salad in plastic cups.  It’s come to this.”
The fact that it tasted different didn’t even matter.  It was those plastic cups!

They used to serve their cucumber salad on real plates.  
We, somehow, made it through the meal.  
My sister Karen tried to cheer us up.  “Let’s go visit Sacred Heart.”
She meant the Church and the school we went to as kids.
       A private Catholic school that, unfortunately, had closed the year before.  The building was still there, but it had been taken over by someone else.  We drove half a mile from the diner into the parking lot, parked the car, stared at the school, which looked the same, ignored the new owner’s sign, and then went into the Church.  Safe haven?  At least the Church was still the same.  

From the outside, the Church looks exactly the same.

The school looked the same, too, if you didn't look at the new sign plastered on the front of the building.  This is where I went to first to eighth grade.  All my brothers and sisters went here, too.  

Or so we thought.
Inside, we winced when we saw that the pews we used to sit in, on the left side of the church, had been removed to make way for the Choir.  

You can see where the chairs are--that's where we used to sit in the pews.  Just another disappointment!  Another change!
        Here’s my memory.  Every Sunday we’d pile into the car, go to the bakery, then park on the street near the Church, enter in through the side door at exactly 9:20 for the 9:30 mass.  But now the pews were gone.  

Caroline, deciding whether she should protest about the missing pews, by manning the pulpit.
Cheryl and Karen eagerly wait to hear what she has to say . . .

Cyndi arrives just at the perfect moment, but Caroline decided not to speak out after all.  

              Chuck peeked out of my smart bag.  I tried to explain why I was upset.  (Meanwhile, we were hoping a priest wouldn’t see a cat in church.)
My sister Cheryl broke the silence.  “Let’s go home.”  She meant it was time to visit our childhood home.  My other sister Caroline chimed in, “And let’s drive around to the back of the house and see what they did to the back yard.”  She meant the new owners.
We had a plan.
We drove the route we used to walk as kids.  It was only a mile, but it had seemed much longer than that when you’re in grade school and have to walk through rain and snow.  
The house we used to live in had been sold years ago when my mother died.  It looked completely different.  We parked one house away and stared at it.  My sister Cheryl and I both took a picture.  Then we drove around to the back, where there used to be woods, where we played as kids.  The town had now built a park.  We drove through and parked the car.  It started to rain, but we didn’t care.  Now, like peeping toms, we snuck up and surveyed our old back yard. 
My memory of our yard: Hedges surrounded the yard.  There was a giant oak tree.  A sand pile with swings.  A pool.  A garden.   
Now the yard was small--so small.  Someone had removed the giant oak tree.  There was no pool or garden.  Only grass.  Just grass.   And a tall white fence replaced the hedges.  
We climbed back into the car in near silence.  
We have three brothers.  One is a captain of the police department in our hometown.  We stopped on a whim and by some miracle he was in the parking lot, leaving to go home.  We told Matt about the missing oak tree.  He said that maybe it had been hit by lightnining in a storm and that’s why it had been removed.  Maybe.  But seeing him buoyed our spirits.

Matt took this shot as we gathered together in the parking lot of the police station.

Then it was onto the cemetery.  My mom and dad are laid to rest--side by side--in the mausoleum.  I always say the same thing when we come to visit as a group.  I repeat what my youngest sister Cyndi said so many years ago when my mother died.  “It isn’t fair,” she'd said.  “You had her for so much longer than I did.”  
“Do you remember what you said, Cyndi, when mommy died?” 
She nods.  

The mausoleum where my parents are buried.
The one thing we don’t talk about this time is the dream we all had about a year after she died.  We all dreamed she came back to our childhood home and knocked on the front door.  She came to visit for a day.  She came back from heaven for a day because we’d all said--if we could only have her for one more day.  We all had the same dream.  
You can never go home again, or rather you should never go home again.  
Let the memories stay as they were.  
Those childhood memories shouldn’t be disturbed.  
I know that now.  The Chuckster knew that before we started.  
I write novels for a living.  In Wild Point Island, my heroine--Ella Pattenson--returns to her childhood home with her sister, Lily, to rescue her father from imprisonment.  Twenty years have passed since she’s been on the island.  But when she arrives at her childhood home, everything is the same.  There’s not even dust on the furniture.  
That’s my fantasy.  
I wish that somehow, there could be a way to return to your childhood home, and it would look exactly the way you left it.  
Wouldn't that be lovely??
Well, as I’m riding home, back to my home now, with my husband and five cats, I turn to Chuck.  
“I have to say, Chuck, you were remarkably well-behaved today.  No funny business.  No jumping around.  No unruly behavior.”
He just rolls around onto his back and strikes that famous Chuck pose.

I read his mind.  “Yes, you can.  As soon as we get home.  Extra cat snacks and nice long walk in the backyard.  I promise.”
        If you'd like to read more about Chuck and his adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com

        Wild Point Island, my paranormal romance, is now available, in paperback and ebook formats at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  


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