Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Fallout of Falling in Love

Falling in love has always been something I do quite easily. My first experience took place at the tender age of ten or twelve. She was the girl next door named Mary Frances (Faffy) Green. I just learned that she died last week in Florida. I used the term "fallout" in the subject of this little opus, which usually denotes something unfortunate. But in this case it simply means the result of an event. And for me that means it had an effect on my writing.

Faffy's older brother, John, became my best friend in those carefree days. We got into all kinds of mischief, and I wrote about  of some of our escapades in prior blogs. You can check out one at A Flying Dream Adventure. Faffy and Johnny had an uncle who was a pilot in the Air National Guard prior to World War II. I used his experience for a character's father in The Marathon Murders.

When I got into junior high, I fell in love with one of Faffy's friends, Marge, who I met at the Green's house. I had never been the outgoing type and was rather bashful as well. I would bring her packs of chewing gum at school and chat in the corridors or on the lawn at lunchtime. During warm weather when sunset came late, I would walk to her street, several blocks away, and stroll past her house hoping that she might appear at the door. She never did. I used that experience for a character in one of my books. Marge went on to marry a neurosurgeon.

In high school I got a little bolder with a girl named Dottie Wechsel. I carried her books as I walked her home some eight or ten blocks past where I lived. We would sit on the porch and talk, and I got to know her mother quite well. She worked downtown at a telephone answering service. I wound up doing better with the mother than the daughter. My problem was I had little money and was too young for a driver's license. A guy with his own car soon swept her away. But I used her last name for a character in A Sporting Murder.

My senior year I fell for a girl whose dad was a preacher. When he was moved to a church a few miles away in Northeast Nashville, I had to take a bus to First Street, on the east side of the river opposite downtown, then transfer to another bus to reach Ruth's house. Standing there waiting for the second bus, I got a generous dose of the soot that settled out of the smoky atmosphere of the central district in those days. My white shirt would wind up with black specks. We dated until I went into the Army in World War II, and the few times I got home after that. But when the war ended, I went off to college in Knoxville and she went her way back home. I used some of our experiences while writing about characters in an unpublished manuscript titled Hellbound.

In a bit of a switch, it was my writing that brought me to the lady who became my wife for some forty-five years until she died of Parkinson's complications. After (actually during) journalism school, I went to work as a reporter for The Knoxville Journal. As part of my job on the police beat, I made rounds at Knoxville General Hospital to check the records at the Emergency Room. I'd chat with the student nurses and soon fell for one named Alma Miracle. We married when I returned from Air Force service in the Korean War.

Sarah, the current love of my life, and I met in Sunday School and have been married nearly thirteen years. We enjoy a lot of friendly by-play, which turns up in my Greg McKenzie series in conversations between Greg and his wife, Jill. For a sample, check this exchange from Chapter 3 of Deadly Illusions.

I've used actual names here, but the ladies have gone on to identify themselves by their married names. At a any rate, there aren't too many people left who could identify them. I went to my high school alumni association's monthly luncheon today, and one of my classmates remarked that there were only three of us in attendance from 1943. The ranks are thinning.

But I'm sure falling in love will always be in fashion, and I'll keep remembering things from the past to write about.

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