I'm just like a time traveller. I visit one year, and a sister might have a new baby, a brother's daughter might have just started high school. I return again and all the young folk have turned into different people. The baby has turned into a walking, talking child and the niece has metamorphosed into a beautiful young woman.
Now ever since I saw Back to the Future back in the eighties, time travel stories have always been a delicious treat. But I'm not as blasé a time traveller as Doctor Who because I don't have the power to return to the intervening years that I've missed in the lives of the people that I love. And that's kind of lonely.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a lovely letter (yes! A real letter, in an envelope, with a stamp!) from a fifth grader in Virginia who wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed reading Tall Story. SD wrote:
I feel I can relate to Andi. I am half Filipino just like Andi. Like all Filipinos, I have a lot of family. Some of them I am really close to, some I haven't met, and also, I have a lot of people that are like my family, that I am not even related to. Sometimes, when I meet family members I get excited, but nervous. That is kind of how Andi was when she met Bernardo.
Thanks for writing, SD! I get such a buzz when I hear from readers. A letter like this reminds me of where I was when I was writing those chapters all those years ago. When I was creating the character of Andi, I was thinking of my own daughter, who is growing up here in London. My husband has a lovely family but there really aren't very many of them. Whenever we go home to the Philippines, my kids are overwhelmed by the number of relations they are suddenly surrounded by. I'll bet they feel exactly like you, excited but nervous.
|My children with cousins galore (and that's not even everyone) . Photo: Randy Quimpo|
They also feel very, very lucky. How cool is it to have family on both sides of the world!
Tall Story taught me a lesson. People sometimes judge people by things that don't matter, like the clothes that they wear. Bernardo was very tall and awkward. Everybody thought that he was strange just because he is eight feet tall, but he actually is very nice. I learned that it is really bad to judge people that you don't even know, and you should get to know somebody before you judge.
When I was younger, I was one of those awkward kids and I always felt it keenly when someone was unkind to me or said something uncomplimentary about my hair or my weight or how I dressed like a boy. I learned how to respond by being funny. As an old lady now, I don't seem to get that kind of treatment anymore, even though I'm more odd looking than ever. But I still remember keenly how it felt and relived it through Bernardo.
Thank you to S and to other children who've written me recently. Here's a random video to put a smile on your face (you might have seen it already but here it is anyway):