Memories Sparked by Grandma Bricken from “Ravens Cove”

Grandmothers are no longer sitting in rockers, knitting socks or being an annoyance to their daughters-in-law—well let’s hope! In reality, grandparents have been economically necessary throughout history. In agrarian times they raised children and boosted family incomes by engaging in cottage trade while parents worked the fields or kept the local shops. I remember the exact spot I first became a grandmother.

It was late April, 2003 and my cell phone rang just as I drove round the bend where Tudor Road meets Muldoon. Husband Dave and I had raised five kids and on occasion, rescued a few of their friends. But we hadn’t a clue how to be grandparents. My first job as grandmother was to climb over my daughter’s backyard fence. Son-in-law Doug had locked himself out when Jenn had gone into labor.  The dog needed to be let out so I wiggled over the fence and unlocked their garden shed finding the spare key.

It’s all a blur now but when we had a house full of school age kids we spent untold evenings figuring out math problems, you know the trains that never quite get through the tunnels on time. And then there were the copious boxes of Kleenex that went along with those big hugs we delivered when someone was dumped before the big prom or maybe no one asked them in the first place. There were the swim team years, the endless weekends we would have rather have stayed home but awakened to dark cold mornings, stopwatch in hand ready to watch the flip-turn portion of a race, or sell hotdogs and logoed t-shirts. We’ve baked untold chocolate chip cookies before judging debate tournaments, brought sandwiches to tennis matches and stood in sub-zero temperatures ladling out cocoa to cross-country skiers.

What about those late nights sewing costumes for Halloween and high school plays? I always thank Mrs. Perry, my home economics teacher, for insisting the unseen parts of a garment must be finished. One spring the bonnet I created for West High’s “The Music Man” got pilfered before the second act, presumably for a spring break excursion.

Back in the fifties my parents would pack me and my two sisters into “Dusty,” our black Oldsmobile, and drive to grandma Gladys’. We’d sink into her overstuffed velvet sofa dressed in our smocked dresses and Mary Jane shoes and stare across at her large fireplace. Grandma called us all “lovey” and would serve us diluted cranberry juice, saltines and marshmallows. She never kissed us but would occasionally allow us coloring on a small white table that had belonged to her son, our dad. Grandma’s husband was deceased so anywhere that had been his territory was off limits. When we got to high school the three of us rebelled against those Sunday visits. Husband Dave’s grandmother, Martha, was even more Victorian, seeing her grandchildren only at tea time. Her chauffeur Barney and his wife Nora would be in charge of visiting progeny. One occasion Barney and Nora took Dave and his cousin Dicken on a Manhattan Circle Line Cruise which crashed into a bridge. Once on dry land again, Barney’s main concern was getting a refund for his employer.

Well, it’s been nine years since I climbed that fence in late April and since then we’ve had the pleasure of watching Averyl engage in Karate or laugh hysterically while she licked a Baskin and Robbins cone filled with gross bluey-tourquoise sherbet.  This past fall we experienced the deep sorrow of losing infant granddaughter Violet, Kristin and Elliott’s newborn. In 2006 I was in a bookstore on Chicago’s State Street when son Nick rang my cell phone to announce the birth of Tess. Her brother Kai came along in January fifteen months later turning us into cross-country grandparents. We’ve cuddled beyond the wildest imaginings of our grandparents, routinely flying to DC to visit Nick’s toddlers.

Which brings me to my choice of  book this month, Ravens Cove,  by Mary Ann Poll. I love self-published books as authors are eager and there is a freshness often lost when commercial publishers over-edit. True, much do-it-yourself publishing is not well proofread and characters often fetch up where they shouldn’t. And yes, there are writers who should allow their readers more freedom of discovery rather than spelling out every detail. Occasionally, self-publishers can get zapped up by name brand publishing houses after producing one or two books, while the internet and e-readers have made distribution of limited printed materials more accessible. Ravens Cove would be a welcome addition to your fishing tackle box this summer, if  you like taking along colored clouds that morph into goons.

Ravens Cove is a fictitious town nestled into jagged Alaskan mountains somewhere near Anchorage. With age discrimination rampant, it’s a joy to find a book where one of the leads is an elder female who is respected for accumulated wisdom.  Grandma Bricken ignores those who think she is too old to hike into the infamous ravine. She also radiates love that somehow plays a part in warding off the evil that has invaded her town and almost eradicates Kat, her granddaughter. Kat is secretary to cousin Bart Anderson, the local sheriff. And when FBI agent Ken Melbourne is told to drop into town from the big city and help solve  murders where brains are  sucked out through eyeballs, the locals naturally bristle.  There’s Cassie who has been dumped by her husband, she runs the beauty shop and “smells like salon chemicals.” Josephina Latrell owns the coffee shop and specializes in an “older than dirt” salmon roast. She sees opportunity to make money in the off-season by staying open and accommodating those involved in solving the gooey murders.

There are two rival churches in a town that hasn’t enough population for one congregation. The newer pastor is Paul Lucas who gets bullied by the secretive Pastor Martin Plotno; boy, does he have secrets. The town’s folklore dates back to the time of Captain Cook’s voyages when a murderous deckhand landed ashore and was killed by something alien. Of course there’s the love interest between Kat and the FBI agent, while demons ooze black and purple fluids around town creating murders in very creative ways. After all, what’s a small town to do without adultery, a shop that sells potions, crystals and adult play paraphernalia? A lone disheveled white-haired stranger pops into town unannounced, thus generating gossip. Poll is at her best when describing the sheriff’s office and his frustrations when the big city guy barges into his investigation, acting insensitive to the daily operations of a sleepy town. She enjoys a good Stephen King novel and has been a strong reader since childhood.

Poll has taken writing courses but really honed her skills on business correspondence working for state and local offices. When a ruptured disk laid her up, friends suggested she write a novel. Author Mary Ann Poll is also an aggressive marketer, an essential skill when self-publishing. I found Poll on several occasions graciously chatting with passers-by between the frozen food cases at Costco. Promotion is often a daunting task for self-made authors. You can attend seminars or buy how-to-advertise books but in the end you have to be prepared to sit in bookstores where not everyone who approaches the self-publisher’s table is nice or will buy your book.  Poll has a video on YouTube and has appeared in local newspapers like Alaska Business Monthly.  With her son Daniel about to graduate from college, Mary Ann Poll is eagerly promoting  her sequel to “Raven’s Cove” where I am hoping to find more romance between granddaughter Kat and agent Melbourne. “Raven’s Cove” and the sequel “Ingress” are available at Amazon.