An e-mail from God showed up in my in-box last November, during a year I strained to wring out the deeper novel my literary agent was convinced I had in me. I needed to scrape out my emotions and smear them on the page. But I only knew how to shove them inside.
My Chatty Cathy doll tumbled over the stucco banister worn shiny from my family’s hands and those who had lived in the Miami apartment before us. Salty tears tickled my face. I scooped her up in chubby, six-year-old arms and pulled her string. But she who won me countless friends on a year-long Volkswagen van trip across Mexico would never talk again. “Quit your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” my daddy said.
When I was thirteen, Mama drove me and my six-year-old brother away from Biscayne Bay and Daddy. We left the sailboat Daddy built in the back yard—where we and our belongings had been crammed into thirty-six feet that smelled of mildew and last night’s fish. Our blue Rambler braked at a house, peering owlishly through black-framed windows. Inside, cold terrazzo floors echoed our footsteps. Mama looked back at us, Jack-in-the-Box smile stitched in place. “Isn’t this a wonderful adventure?”
At nineteen I hurled myself at Jesus, Someone who didn’t think my emotions were too loud and bothersome, Someone who listened to my heart.
For three decades I locked my childhood and my emotions behind Get Smart steel grates. If I wasn’t such an Eeyore, if I had an ounce of gratitude, I would have said my childhood was okay. A lot of people suffered worse.
A flash of blond hair out a firehouse window unearthed a firefighter’s memory of a fifth-grade girl walking home from St. Hugh’s Catholic School in Miami. He was a sixth-grader who could never understand why his carpool whisked past me day after day as I plodded through a ramshackle, black neighborhood in the sticky heat headed for the marina.
Though we never spoke, the man googled me and e-mailed, “I always thought how sad and lonely you looked.”
I felt as though Jesus pressed three fingers into my right shoulder and said, “Yes, your childhood was sad.” The doors to my past and emotions burst open.
As a child I shut off my voice because it wouldn’t be heard or believed. Now I’m starting to come all-out with my husband, children, and friends. They listen and believe me. They embrace me. I am showing them the core of who I am. Color and intensity of feeling are shooting through my deadness. I am learning to pen pain and joy.
Ironically, in my writing people have told me for years that my unique voice is my strength. Could there be people desperate for my message, could my words be valuable?
God went out of His way to love a girl nobody listened to, to restore her voice and emotions. How can I not speak?
Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.
Kicking Eternity was published in May, and won a first-place award in 2009 from Romance Writers of America:
Fresh from college, Raine scores a teaching job at New Smyrna Beach Surf and Sailing Camp. A crush on the camp rebel/art teacher threatens to derail her plans to teach orphans in Africa. The broody recreation director spots her brothers meth addiction and Raine’s enabling. Raine believes she is helping her brother–until lives are threatened.
“Ann Lee Miller writes stories straight from the heart with characters who’ll become friends, remaining with you long after you turn that final page. You won’t want to miss Kicking Eternity!” –Jenny B. Jones, Author of the Katie Parker Production Series from Think and The Charmed Life Series
Anyone who leaves a comment with an e-mail address (JaneReader[at]msn[dot]com) will receive a free e-book copy of Kicking Eternity. Those who don’t want to leave an e-mail may contact Ann for their free book at AnnLeeMiller.com.