We have two feet of snow outside and our pond crackles with ice. The view from my window reminds me of the tiny village my father built under our Christmas tree every year. It was a marvel with cotton snow, a mirror lake with two skaters, and a train with a red caboose that ran endlessly in a circle.
This year’s blizzard arrived the day after Christmas just as the one did in 1947. I remember that blizzard of my childhood more for missing my father than for the wondrous snow that piled up in front of our house in St. Albans, New York. That year, my father was a police captain in New York City and was called back to work because of the snow emergency instead of enjoying his vacation with us. My mother, sad herself, substituted for him, putting games together, taking us sledding, reading to us. I still feel that joy when he finally came home to us! I wrote LILY’S CROSSING with that Christmas in mind. Set in St. Albans and Rockaway during the summertime, Lily’s longing for her father who was overseas was my memory of that wintery Christmas.
Yesterday I received such a poignant letter from a child, commenting on NORY RYAN’S SONG. It wasn’t Nory’s struggle in Ireland for food during the Great Hunger that she wrote about; she was sad because Nory’s father was away for so long. It’s so hard, she said, when your father has to work all the time.
I think of all the children whose fathers are away this year, fighting overseas, or called away on business, or policemen and firemen working during emergencies. Sometimes as adults we’re not always aware of the quiet grief that children experience and often don’t express. I hope my books give them some measure of comfort.