The St. Jean Hotel

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In the upcoming novel, The Blue Lute, the main setting is Manhattan, New York City, more specifically, The St. Jean Hotel. I had a bit of trouble coming up with a catchy name for this little place, mainly because I had based it on another hotel that already existed, and I was stuck on that name. I tried The Cecilia (the patron saint of musicians), The Cruxton (from another building in NY but it sounded like something from a vampire novel) and several other versions of names, nothing felt right.  That is until I thought to my own family.  The one name I had yet to use was my grandfather’s St. Jean. I had been trying to find a way to use his name in one of my stories, but I wanted it to be something important and not just a quick insert-name-here kind of thing. I was so glad when the idea of using his name as the place where Brandon and Lilly first meet and the story of The Blue Lute unravels, came through.

Scan 176Armand St. Jean joined our family in 1964 and later became one of the best grandfathers a girl could ever have. He would take me out on errands (or “eryns” as I called them) any Saturday morning I was in Foxboro, Massachusetts with him.  We’d go to the bank and the library and then to a donut shop where he would have a coffee and read the paper and I would get a powdered jelly donut.

Reading was must with Grandpa. From as early as four years old, I remember sitting on his lap in his black leather recliner and green hanging light over head, listening to him read story after story to me. The Golden books were his favorite and soon became my sisters and my favorites, too. He’d read and munch on dry roasted peanuts, careful not to feed us too many before dinner and if we were lucky we’d even get him to sing the four note tune of Dragnet to us in his perfect, low baritone voice Dum dee dum dum. We’d make him sing it over and over until he’d finally quit and tell us to wait for the next time or else it wouldn’t be special anymore.  We’d wait, but still try to imitate him, never getting as low as he could.

Little Eryn and Grandpa

Little Eryn and Grandpa

It wasn’t until I was writing Beneath the Wall that I wondered what role Grandpa had in World War II.  I knew he was in the Army but didn’t know his story.  I had always followed after my mother’s father who I’ve featured on my blog a few times as the WWII hero. Papa, Robert Browning, was in the Army Airforce and was shot down and captured by the Germans. A heavy duty dramatic war story that overshadowed many of the other family members’ experiences, including Grandpa’s.

But Grandpa was considered part of the war, too.  He was in the Army in France, I believe, toward the end of the war.  His unit carried the artillery from base to base and they had just been called up to battle when, on the way, they received a transmission telling them to retreat because the war was over. German had surrendered.  Grandpa was sent home shortly after, unscathed.

Today, Grandpa spends his days at my Grammy’s side. She remembers very little these days, but Grandpa keeps her company no matter what. They’ve been married for almost 50 years and he still kisses her like a debonaire old gentleman of the silver screen.  My Grandpa is the best!! Me and G

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Memories of Summer

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Now that summer is about half way finished I thought I’d dedicate a blog to the season of heat, long days and smoldering nights.

Summer isn’t particularly my favorite season. It’s hot and sticky and for a work-from-home mom with a school age child it’s downright impossible to get things done. But some of the best memories have come from my thirty-thgievii years of summers. So today, I thought I’d mention my top three memories from my childhood, teenage and adulthood.

One summer when I was a little girl my family was in a traveling musical that went up and down the east coast, Arizona, and finally the island of Jamaica. My twin sisters and I weren’t allowed on the Arizona or Jamaica trips but we did make the long drive from Connecticut to Georgia and back again. We listened to Christian tapes like Kids Under Construction, Carmen, We are Called and Sandi Patty, as well as Neil Diamond’s Jazz Singer and Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler.  We knew every word to every song and sang along the whole time. We visited amusement parks, museums, and walked Washington D.C. until our feet had fallen off and we’d collapsed on the lawns in front of the Smithsonian. It was wonderful and as for the cuisine… my parents even took us to a back-woods eatery in Georgia called Mammy’s Kitchen, where we ate on a blue checkered table-clothed picnic table outside and was served the most amazing barbecue on paper plates. We ate with our hands and licked our sauced fingers when we were finished.   Scan 169

Scan 170At that age, I didn’t have friends that asked me over nor did it matter if I had my own thing to do. I did what my family did and it was great!We had art, culture and a vast tolerance of each other in a close quartered van we’d named Wally.

 

We tried to do family trips after that but my sisters and I had evolved into teenagers and before we knew it hanging around in a car for hours on end was not fun. We would chomp at the bit to be home and with our friends. Which brings me to my next favorite summer story.  I was in my late teens just after high school graduation. A group of friends and I had spent the day on a boat and in the evening we’d gathered at a private cove by Candlewood Lake in Sherman, Connecticut.

The coves of Candlewood Lake

The coves of Candlewood Lake

As the sun set we cooked up hot dogs and sat by the campfire making s’mores. The fire crackled  and embers sputtered, making a fun day a spectacular night. We were a good group of kids, no one drank, no one smoked, it was just good clean fun, basking in the cool summer night breeze. I don’t remember the exact date but it must have been in August, for once the moon had dropped behind the tree line we had a perfect view of a clear night sky as many of us lay on our backs against the bobbing boat docks.  Above us the Leonid meteoroid shower rained down, shooting one star after another. It was so magical and beautiful! A truly perfect summer night.

Stars falling might be magnificent but there’s nothing like a sizzling summer romance. Up until I was twenty-something all my dating was done in the summer. There was the first kiss after seeing Jurassic Park, pool dates, and even roller-blading along a sandy boardwalk in the sunny California sun.ar127802630926611 But nothing was better than the one 4th of July on the beach.  It was a hot and sticky night, the sand was warm, the blanket we laid upon was soft and the breeze across the ocean was heavenly.  Fireworks blazed above, popping one after another as my, then, boyfriend lay next to me. His fingers trailed along my bare arm as the multitude of colors exploded in the sky. We had kissed a few times, hugged a lot and we really liked each other but we were not in love. Up until now his kisses had yet to be exciting – a peck here, a pucker there, but nothing to write home about. So this hand against my balmy skin was the most intimate touch we’d ever shared. And considering the absent way he brushed his finger pads along the soft hairs of my arm, I doubt he knew what he was doing to me.

After the fireworks show was over we gathered our things and made our way through traffic to pick up his roommate from work, but we were too early. So what else was there to do for two healthy young adults? In my mind there was only one innocent idea and it involved more than the chaste pecks we’d been sharing. I grabbed his face, pulling his lips to mine and kissed him as whole-heartedly as I felt. The poor guy didn’t know what had hit him.  By the time the second-base make-out session was over, the friend’s shift was over and  we were smiling as wide as the moon above. Our innocence had opened up just a little bit more and when the friend climbed in the backseat he eyed us queerly yet neither of us mentioned how much kissing we’d done just moments before he stepped inside. Silently we’d grabbed hands in the front seat and the guys brought me home – the night to be continued on our next date.

So in conclusion, yes, summer should be my favorite season for all its memories but just think… if this is my least favorite season, imagine what memories I have from my favorite times of year.

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