I was kidnapped when I was nine.
Not a bad first line for a novel, that, but what's funny is, it's almost true. (I was also kidnapped when I was 14, also almost true, but a story for another day.) We were on vacation the summer of '76, six kids and two parents in a station wagon with a shell stuffed with luggage riding on top like a tan and brown hat, and when we got to Fort Worth, my cousin Maxine took one look at me and took a shine. My mother's cousin, I should say; she was then in her mid-fifties, but still a lot of fun. (She still is, at 91.) Fun enough to sneak me from her mother's house to her own on the other side of the lake without bothering to tell anyone. Kidnapped!
After the night at her house was over, after the trip was over (Missouri and Mount Rushmore and Jackson Hole before it was cool and when it was still, well, a hole), I wrote her a letter. And she wrote back. She wrote back! So I wrote again, and again, and I guess she fell even more in love with me, because all these years later she still lights up with delight when we visit her in that same house. Lights up with delight seeing me, my family, hearing my stories, telling her own. As we'll do today.
Because of Maxine, I wrote letters. Because I wrote letters, I learned how to love to write. Because of her, I'm a writer today. Something to be thankful for. Today, tomorrow, and every day.