Excerpt from book:
First Day Journal: April 28
Today Maddie is wearing blue, the color of a summer sky. The choice is a good one. Any shade of blue probably suits her, but, of course, in the years before adolescence, most children look wonderful in every shade of the rainbow. At Maddie's age skin is flawless and radiant, and hair is glossy. I think her eyes are probably blue. This is an educated guess, based on the light brown of her hair, the rose tint of her cheeks and her preferences for every shade from royal to periwinkle. I bet somebody's told her how pretty she looks when she wears it. I remember how susceptible girls of ten are to compliments. Her mother certainly was.
This park is always filled with children. I come here to watch them play, while at the same time I worry they make learning personal facts too easy. I feel absurdly protective, so I make it my job to watch out for strangers who show too much interest or approach them to start conversations.
This is absurd, of course, because to the children, I'm a stranger, too. A stranger enjoying a glimpse back in time to a childhood she never experienced. A stranger scribbling in a journal she resisted for weeks until the lure became too great.
I'm calling this my First Day Journal because of a quote from the 1970s. When I first arrived in Asheville the words radiated in psychedelic colors from posters in every store downtown.
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
Ironically, during the time the saying was wildly popular, I was too busy to think about it. For me a day was just something to get through to make way for another. But now, every time I sit down to record my past and my thoughts, I'll need the reminder that every day brings a new start, whether we need one or not.
A shriek draws my attention. The boy laboring up the spokes of the metal dome with Maddie is named Porter. Apparently his mop of black hair makes it hard to see, because he continually shakes his head in frustration, or maybe just in hopes the strands will fly out of his eyes for the time it takes to lumber to the top. I know his name because the other children shout it loudly and often. Porter's something of a bully. Overweight, a little shabbier than the others, a little clumsy.
It's that last that makes the boy pick on Maddie, I think. Porter's figured out an eternal truth. If he makes fun of someone else, no one will look quite so hard at him. While this makes me angry, I understand. The world's filled with bullies, but at birth, not a one of them glanced at the next cradle and plotted how to steal the pacifier out of a baby-neighbor's mouth. It's only later they learn that knocking down other people may help them stand taller.
So while Porter's behavior upsets me, I feel sorry for him, as well. He's still just a boy. I want to take him in hand and teach him the manners he'll need to get by in the world, but Porter's neither my son nor grandson. I'm just a stranger on a park bench, watching children make mistakes and enemies, decisions and friends.
One of Maddie's friends is on her way to the dome right now to make sure Porter doesn't push her. This child, olive-skinned and lean, is named Edna, which surprised me the first time I heard another child call her name. Of course, names are a circle. They come into favor, then go. Today's young mothers probably never had an Aunt Edna who smelled like wintergreen and mothballs, and chucked them under the chin at family reunions. They find the name filled with music, the way my generation never did.
The child Edna is filled with music. She's a girl who dances her way through life. I think if she and I ever spoke she would sing her words. Edna certainly sings her way int"This is truly a marvelous piece of work."
-New York Times bestselling author Catherine Anderson