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Mercurial Moments

Lying in bed this morning I imagined tugging Joan free from inside the frayed photo of her twisting her hair with her finger at our kitchen table. Stepping gingerly outside the 1/4 inch white border, her white blouse billowing from a fresh gust of air, she shakes her head with a smile. “I thought you’d never come.”
I turn my head. In the darkness, a glimmer on the wall. Time for coffee.
Entering my office, coffee and bagel in hand, I use my elbow to switch on the light but miss and knock something hanging on the wall. Illuminated, the newly framed poster — a Rorschach-style image of dancers in motion Joan designed for a production at her friend’s studio — now hangs askew. It’s title: Mercurial Moments.


I’m back

Now that my Chinese New Year wrap-up is complete, I’m looking forward to focusing on Joan and trying to figure out, after 31 years, who killed her. The fact that Pat & Sue are on board will make the journey bearable — even, can I say it?– almost enjoyable. Sounds morose, I know. But our family has always had a twisted sense of reality and a morbid sense of humor. Should be a journey worth noting. Hope you can join us.

Desert Bag

The last time I remember viewing that sage brush-dotted terrain was 37 years ago when Joan picked me up from the Reno airport and we drove to Susanville where, only a few months before, she’d traded UC Berkeley classes for those at Mt Lassen Junior College.

I had flown only once before on my Senior trip to Disneyland. Exhilarated by independence and oblivious to protocol, I grabbed my suitcase from baggage claim and threw it in Joan’s trunk. The desert scenery flew by as we talked nonstop for the next 2 hours.

Always the good hostess and big sister, Joan carried my bag into the guest room and plopped it on the bed. “Make yourself at home” she said, obviously proud that she had a home, however small, to share.
When we decided to go for a hike, I went to my suitcase for my tennis shoes and discovered a lock that I’d never seen before.

“You grabbed the wrong suitcase, you doe doe!” Joan said with exasperation.

I hung my head in shame. After years of being the coddled youngest child, I’d flubbed my first attempt at self sufficient travel.

Joan called the airline. “My sister picked up the wrong bag on her flight from Oakland.”

“You need to return the bag back to the airport immediately,” they demanded.

“I’m not driving back to the airport,” Joan said flatly. “You need to put my sister’s bag on a bus to Susanville and I will send this bag back to you.”

“That’s not acceptable. That could take a couple of days,” they responded.

My guilt overflowed. “I’ll drive your car back, Joan. They shouldn’t have to wait for their bag because of my stupid mistake.”

But Joan ignored me as she spoke into the phone. “If you want the bag, you’re going to have to wait for it.” That was that. Joan had a way with situations: her way.

As guilty as I felt for having taken that poor person’s bag, I marveled at my 21 year old sister’s control of the situation. Maybe one day I’d learn to be the same way. Even at that time, I doubted it.

Call Back

I’m flying to Reno then driving to Susanville in a couple of weeks to meet with the detective on Joan’s case and see what information I can get from her file. I’ve debated about calling her husband to see if we can meet to talk while I’m there.

Thinking of calling Dan brings me back to that warm June morning 31 years ago when, without thinking, I’d chosen black pants and a black top from my closet. I shook my head as I hung them back up. What was I thinking? All black was hardly the festive outfit to wear for the birthday breakfast I was preparing for my neighbor Joanne that morning!

I clicked on the Mr. Coffee. The aroma of the rich brew filled the air as I neatly laid out the pastries on my prettiest tray. The phone rang as I was setting the table. I assumed it was Joanne. “Hey Birthday Girl!” I chirped.

“Uh, Peg, it’s me…Dan.”

If we could pick one moment in our lives where we could wind back and take a different road, that would be mine. Having recently shared with Joan that I’d had a dream that Dan had called to tell me she died, I thought the call was a joke. But even a seasoned prankster like Dan couldn’t fake such a somber tone. Hearing it, I tried to scramble back up that road. “I’m asleep,” I thought. “I’ll wake up and Joan will be fine.” But the coffee kept brewing.

“Peg…Joan’s dead.”

Now the road was warping and rolling and I was on the ground. I fell and pulled my legs and arms into the fetal position, hoping against hope that I had never been born. That would be preferable to the pain beginning to seep in all around.

That call to Dan is just going to have to wait.

I love book clubs!

I was honored to be a guest at a San Ramon group’s first book club meeting this morning. Meeting with this lively, lovely group of women reminded me of how lucky we women are that we feel so comfortable diving deep into our emotions to find the answers to what makes us tick and what makes us who we are as individuals. Within the course of 90 minutes, we shared our stories of mental illness and relationships and loss, and I think we all left feeling a little closer and a little less alone.
Thanks so much to all of you at today’s book club for coming and opening up your hearts 🙂

Fairy Dust for your pocket

Approaching Neverland Wins Mom’s Choice!

I’m very excited that Approaching Neverland has been chosen by the Mom’s Choice Awards as a Silver Medal Recipient! The Mom’s Choice Awards honor excellence in family-friendly media, products and services.
To celebrate with me, go get some pixie dust from my home page by running your mouse over the cover of my book and stuff it in your pocket. You never know where it might take you!

Need Pixie Dust?

Braving the Storm!

Just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all the great folks who braved the torrential downpour this past Wednesday to make it to my book event at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton. The storm was so bad that several trees were uprooted at Pleasanton BART!

Judy Wheeler, owner of Towne Center Books, made us all feel cozy and welcome with homemade cranberry nut bread, muffins, coffee and tea. Our enthusiastic crowd had a fantastic discussion about families and mental illness. It was one of my favorite book events to date.

Thanks again to all who came!

Jan. 20 and Feb. 18

Hope you can come to one of my East Bay book events for Approaching Neverland: Jan. 20, 10:30 am, Towne Center Books, 555 Main St, Pleasanton, or Feb. 18, 7:00 pm, Books, Inc., 1760 Fourth St., Berkeley. Would LOVE to see you there!