Here is the “Story behind the Story” from my fellow WWII-writer, Heidi Chiavaroli! Visit her blog here!
At the age of nineteen, I remember grieving my great-great-grandmother’s death. She was 102, born in the year 1898. I was sad for the loss, of course, but sadder still to think I hadn’t taken advantage of the time I’d had with her. Asked her questions. What was it like to be a child in 1908? How did it feel to be married during the turbulent times of WWI? To watch a grandchild be born with a second World War raging overseas? She was history. Personal history that I hadn’t much bothered to delve into. A thousand stories were buried with her, and I’d never attempted to unearth them.
So I imagined them instead. Gradually they evolved to other characters, other places, other times. I couldn’t stop. I love all history, but found myself drawn to the WWII era. It always struck me as glamorous and terribly romantic. My great-grandparents were young parents during this time.
From the beginning, I knew I would set my stories locally. There’s just something about diving into history books from my local library and discovering that a one hundred-year-old building—now a home—I often drive by was a post office during WWII. Or that a slight, narrow clearing in the woods down the street is where a trolley track used to run. I can’t get enough of this stuff. As I continued with my research, and broadened from Rehoboth, MA to Boston, MA, it became more interesting. There was so much happening during WWII in Massachusetts’ capitol, and tons of story “sparks” in the research I came upon. An orphanage. A historic restaurant. A park. A nightclub. A fire. At every turn, a story longed to be told. Very gradually, Room for Freedom was born out of this pile of research and ideas.
My great-grandfather passed on last week at the age of 98. The last time I visited with him in his home he told me a story. As a little boy, he’d go to the nearby general store with his mother. In a jar on the counter sat little bags of potato chips, a nickel a bag. But his family didn’t have much money, and he could never get his tiny hands on one of those bags of chips. Such a small slice of his long existence, but it gave me a precious glimpse into his character, his life. I’m going to miss this man and his stories.
The past is real. The stories are real. I believe God has a purpose for them, even when no one is left to tell first-hand accounts. I pray He will use me, and others like me that share this passion for not only history, but writing.