Join Prism Book Alliance® as Brandon Witt goes Outside the Margins today.
A few months ago, I posted a segment from an autobiography that I wrote a decade ago, one that I will never publish. However, I thought I’d share this section with you today. I’ll explain why at the end.
Ava was my favorite person in the world when I was a kid. She still is one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. She is my second cousin and an aunt to my favorite cousin. From the time I was around six years old, every few months, Ava would drive four hours from the college she was attending to spend the weekend with me. She was gorgeous. She was tall (at least in my eyes), slender, had long, thick, wavy chocolate colored hair. Her skin was flawless and set off her huge sparkling eyes and full lips perfectly. She was also notoriously late, not a couple of minutes, but a couple hours. The good part of this is that she would also leave to go back home late too. Whenever she would go back home, I would cry for days afterwards. My parents loved Ava as well, but always had mixed feeling of her coming to stay with us because of how upset I would be when she left.
Outside of my grandparents, Ava was the one person I felt like I experienced complete unconditional love. She never put any expectations on me or scolded me. Every thought and scheme that came into my head was shared with Ava when we were together. She always responded like the things I said were of the up-most importance and brilliance. She would always rave about my bright red hair and tell me that she wished her hair were the same color. I loved having red hair, namely because of her.
Ava would play with me for hours. We would color in my Cabbage Patch coloring book, play with My Little Ponies, watch ‘The Little Mermaid’ for hours on end. At times, I would get to go to her house in Kansas City. She would take me to Chucky Cheese Pizza and to Toys R Us. We would get into her little sports car and she would take me through the drive-through car wash. I had never seen anything like it, the whirling brushes, the liquids of varying colors coursing down the windshield, the thunderous water pounding against the car—it was magical. We would go swimming in her pool and then we would make chocolate cinnamon cake together. Nothing says love like food. Nothing says eternal devotion like chocolate.
Many in my family are singers, and Ava was no exception. She was in a choral group at her Christian college. I played the tape of her singing constantly, until it was worn out completely.
When my brother was born, Ava continued to come down to spend time with me, and now with him as well. She was able to love us both so completely and equally that I never felt slighted by lack of her affection or attention. She was with us when Grandpa died. She stayed with us for several days, simply being with me and playing any game that I wanted. I remember thinking that if there was anything good about Grandpa dying it was that I would get to spend extra time with Ava.
Ava got married when she was twenty-seven. I was a freshman in high school, and my brother was only four or five. She was not able to spend as much time with us as before. But every time we see her, it is like we are the most important things in existence.
Now that I am older than Ava was when she first started coming down to stay with us—hell, older than she was when she got married—I am even more struck by the relationship she had with me and with my little brother. I love kids, always have, but I do not have the gift she has. She would spend days engulfed in strange little boy land (as much as what I have described can be labeled ‘little boy’ land). I don’t think for an instant that she was enthralled with every word I said or every childish activity we undertook, but she sure convinced me she was. She is one of the examples I have in my life of what love can look like and how to treat someone you love. Her love towards me was selfless, genuine, and true. Best of all, it was real.
I hadn’t seen ‘Ava’ in over seven years. I got to see her for a few brief hours the other day, under rather sad circumstances. (Side note: the cousin mentioned above, the one to whom she is an aunt, is the cousin I based Donnie off of in The Shattered Door. If you’ve read that book, you know how much he meant to me, and to her.)
In my writing, one of the things that gets the most comments (and mostly positive) is how I write women and the lives my women characters live. Part of that is due to my mother, her strength, her unfailing devotion to me. (I know I’m doing that man thing where I talk about how important women are because of their relationship to me, a man. I sorry, I don’t mean it negative. But in this context, it’s just how it is, right or wrong.) The other, is ‘Ava.’ She was, and is, of the conservative religion in which I grew up—no cutting hair, no jewelry, no, no, no. The religion now allows some hair cutting and some jewelry. She’s a pastor’s wife. I do not meet the definition of what is good to her or to her (my old) religion. I am not the man she hoped I would be. And none of who I am is secret, from anyone (as you’ve noticed on Facebook). One of the few regrets (that’s not the right word, but whatever) I have is that I know, without her saying, that I’m not who she prayed I’d be. I don’t hold that against her or myself. Religion is a powerful, all consuming thing.
We had a moment alone, just a moment. I’ve nearly written her for years, and I haven’t. I couldn’t let the moment go by any longer. I told her what she was for me. That she was literally the one spot in my life growing up where I was enough, where I wasn’t judged even at all. Even my struggle with being gay faded when I was kid, when she was near. So many kids don’t have anyone like that in their lives. She changed my world, made me believe I was okay, and loved. And, even now, all these years later, though I know I’m not the man she prayed I’d be, it was clear in her eyes, her words, her voice, her embrace, that I am as love by her as I ever was. And, honestly, the fact that I’m not who she is comfortable with, that we are oceans apart on how we live our lives and see the world, and yet that love stays the same. . . that means even more and has more power because of that difference.
Why are women so important to me in my novels? I have no doubt that the power and love of ‘Ava’ bleeds through every one of my women characters.
I could fill up several books with my love for this woman and how she has affected my life and made me know love and strength and goodness, but I’ll stop here. For now.
(Side note: This picture is of photos I have on my bookshelf. That is Ava in college, around the time she recorded the music I spoke about above. Beside is a picture of me and my family. I’m the chubby redhead. That’s the little boy (or not so little) that she lavished love and affection upon, and changed his world.
About Brandon WittBrandon Witt resides in Denver, Colorado. When not snuggled on the couch with his two Corgis, Dunkyn and Dolan, he is more than likely in front of his computer, nose inches from the screen, fingers pounding they keys. When he manages to tear himself away from his writing addiction, he passionately takes on the role of a special education teacher during the daylight hours.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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