Writing instructors often warn us to avoid beginning with backstory — to get right to the point. Writers such as myself often balk at such warnings, believing that our backstory is uniquely important. So we begin with it anyway. Such is the writing life.
My backstory involves three members of my family: my father, my nephew Skip Reagan, and myself. On the surface, you might imagine that although Skip and I love and appreciate each other, we really don’t have that much in common.
Skip is a single guy in the middle of a successful career in technology who has several interests that don’t especially coincide with my own. My thoughts and activities revolve around books, reading, writing, and my husband, children and grandchildren. Skip enjoys beautiful and powerful cars, sharing his passion with his community, friends and family (especially children), and promoting charitable events involving exotic cars.
I bring my dad into the story because I believe that he is the source of Skip’s passion and mine. This helps me to appreciate Skip’s point of view and what he enjoys most.
My dad loved cars. He enjoyed owning them and driving them , and became somewhat of a car connoisseur. He bought new cars frequently and appreciated their beauty and performance. He was fortunate to be able to afford the cars, with a family of five children to support, and was willing to give up the speed and power they offered for the same reason.
I remember going on vacations that involved driving for three days to get to our destination, staying for a couple of days, and then returning home. My dad’s pleasure, and my mother’s, was the journey. (Of course, those of us in the back seat had different ideas of a great vacation.)
He also enjoyed books and reading. He spent many hours reading during my childhood and set a good example for me and my siblings on the pleasure and information that books, magazines, and newspapers held. I was the child who inherited his love of reading to the greatest extreme, just as Skip inherited his passion for cars.
I have noticed that there is a juncture for our two passions — Skip’s and mine. Reading and driving both offer an opportunity to travel and experience new exciting and interesting destinations. There is pleasure in letting oneself get totally absorbed in our journey and in introducing others to a new dimension to their lives.
Both reading and driving offer us fresh points of view and expanding horizons.
Skip and I also both share an appreciation of the objects of our passions. He purchases cars as I purchase books, not only as vehicles for travel, but for their physical beauty. It doesn’t matter that Skip can drive only one car at a time and that my house is already full of books. We are both collectors, which extends our passions to a new level.
A wonderful motivator is to share the satisfaction and value of our passions with others. Any librarian or book seller can tell us about the excitement of introducing children or new adult readers to books. I believe that Skip experiences the same excitement when he talks to admirers about his cars.
This all takes me back to my dad. He continued to enjoy reading until just before he died at 91. He had to give up driving a few years before that and his enthusiasm for buying new cars even earlier, but he continued to enjoy talking about them with Skip and other family members. He and I also had some good conversations about books and he would always show me those he had received for his birthday, Father’s Day, or Christmas. I was thrilled that we shared this passion throughout my life.
I know how much Skip loved his grandfather and imagine that he was proud to have shared a passion for cars and driving with him.
I am also happy that most of us have room for more than one passion in our lives and that it’s never too late to cultivate a love of reading and books.