Sample Chapter from My Book

Photo by Riley Briggs

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The following is a sample of my new book, Rain Down: Discover Why We All Need Connection. You can find out more here and sign up to be an early reader by subscribing to my newsletter!

Weeping Willows and Lightening Bugs

We flew from Scotland to New Jersey to see my Dad. I was returning to my hometown for the first time in years.

We drove along the same roads where I use to sit on a big yellow school bus. I used to stare out the window of that bus every day and I was surprised to see that the view was much the same. It is a strange feeling returning home. In some ways, you feel like your hometown is frozen inside a snow globe and you are looking at it from above.

For the first day or two, while driving around New Jersey, I had to rely on the GPS on my phone to get me around the streets. Once the jet lag wore off, I got back into the flow and the memories of the roads came flooding back. Route 35 leads to route 34, you take a left at the A&P, go over train tracks, pass by Attilio’s Pizza and you’re home.

Speaking of Attilio’s Pizza, we stopped by there as soon as we arrived. They are still a family owned restaurant and one of the very few which has not been flattened and turned into a giant foodstore chain. My sisters and I walked in, after being away for years, and the owners recognised us right away, even remembering everyone’s names. That’s dedication and connection to your community!

My family moved out of my childhood home years ago, but by coincidence, it happened to be up for sale again by the new owners. So when I parked outside and stared at the house from the street, I figured it didn’t look too suspicious; people would think I was a potential buyer checking the place out.

This was the first time my children had the chance to see the home where I grew up. I explained that this is the street where I used to run about from dawn until dusk. They were so excited and fired loads of questions at me like, “What did you use to do all day?” and “Where did you hang out?”

The answers to those questions, in order, were “play” and “in a big tree that used to be right there in the middle of that lawn”. Sadly, that tree no longer exists.

We used to have a giant weeping willow in our front yard. It was the centrepiece of our youth. It stood exactly halfway between my house and my best friend’s house next door. My friend and I would gather at the tree, climb the giant branches and pretend that tree was everything from a starship to a bank that had an alarming number of robberies.

Our little world was built around that tree.

In the summer, as soon as the sun started to go down, the bats would come out and fly high above the tree. You could throw a tennis ball in the air and the bats would dart after it and chase it as it fell towards the ground. We would run away screaming, always afraid of the dreaded, “getting a bat stuck in your hair” scenario.

There were also thousands of lighting bugs that would appear in the air around the tree. Thousands might be an exaggeration in numbers, but that’s how it looked in our young eyes.

The game was to catch the lightening bugs in a jar. The little guys would blink on and off and you’d only have a few moments to run over to that exact spot and catch them before you lost sight of them in the night sky. The game would go on until someone’s parent shouted, “It’s time to come in!” from a doorstep.

I was sad to see that the new homeowners had cut our weeping willow down. The grass had grown over the spot, leaving no evidence that it ever existed.

If another family moves in and they have kids, my hope is that they’ll plant another tree and one day it will grow big enough to be a starship. I hope that next generation of kids will go outside and play and they won’t stay indoors on their flat screen devices.

Returning to my family home, I could see all these things in front of me: the spot where the tree used to stand, the sidewalk where we’d ride our bikes, the driveway where we’d jump off ramps with our skateboards. I could see the memories in my mind.

Everything else was missing.

The best friend next door had long moved away, the neighbourhood kids running and screaming down the street were absent, our old station wagon was no longer parked in the driveway, and my brother’s Volkswagen Beetle, the one with the back bumper hanging off, was no longer parked next to the mailbox.

Returning home is like viewing your favourite painting except someone has brushed over it with sweeping movements. Those people and events from my childhood have now been erased from the view.

Those memories still live on in my mind and the connections I made are still part of me. Those connections helped to create the person that I am today.

The summer nights full of lightening bugs might be gone and my best friend no longer lives next door, but the emotions are still there. That weeping willow in my front yard was where my friends and I gathered and it is where we connected.

Going back to my old home made me realise that I need to pass on those examples of connections to my own children. I need to show them that life is about the connections we make. I need to show them that connection is worth their time.

Great connections are made of up of those memories where we are running around in the dark with our best friend, trying to capture things that tend to disappear.

This was a sample of my new book, Rain Down: Discover Why We All Need Connection. You can find out more here and sign up to be an early reader by subscribing to my newsletter!