In my head, I began writing this novel the first day my husband and I moved to an independent living facility in 2008. At the breakfast table each morning we sat with a curious mix of residents, some regulars, some “floaters” who drifted from table to table either because they could find no other seats or because the regulars at other tables refused to let them sit in chairs ordinarily occupied by friends. Some people spoke little, others too much, delivering fragments of their life stories more than once or twice, and I would return to our apartment to jot down notes before the day’s activities blotted their words from my mind.
Still the manuscript had no structure, nothing more than random anecdotes and my own impressions of these residents whom I saw every day. Writing a first-person book of impressions or essays didn’t appeal to me. Nor did I wish to forge a harangue against competent management or hard-working staff members whom I admired, but I did want somehow to tackle the fears and foibles of aging.
It occurred to me that the 19th century author, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote a book series, starting with The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, which had much to say about the aged and growing old. Why not do a contrast between the Jewish residents of my retirement community and the Bostonians at his breakfast table? Further research led me to sequels, The Professor at the Breakfast Table and The Poet at the Breakfast Table. I liked the way Holmes used mealtime as a literary hat rack for displaying the intellectual and humorous remarks of his characters. My own book began to take shape as a full-fledged novel, an ongoing narrative involving fictional characters, composites based on fellow residents, lifelong acquaintances, and even eccentric relatives.
Beth Alvarez, a mainstay of the University of Maryland reference room at Hornbake Library, located for me a number of useful books by and about Holmes. It was amazing that he tackled many of the same problems of growing old that Americans still experience in the 21st century. As a means of continuity, he also inspired me to insert a love story, which became more dominant as the major characters developed. And so after three years of arising at 5:00 a.m. to battle a diabolical laptop that regularly led me to seek technological salvation from our family Geek Squad (my sons and grandchildren), here at last is the Swift Seasons.
Mollee Kruger – June 2016