"In 1963, Ellie's mother, Doris Day Dingman, was crowned the Bosetti Beauty at Mr. Bosetti's supermarket, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the Dingmans began to fall apart." So begins the first chapter of my new book, Here Today. It tells the story of the Dingman family and the challenges that eleven-year-old Ellie faces both at home with a mother who doesn't want to be a mother, and at school where the "popular" kids torment anyone who is different.
The Dingmans live on Witch Tree Lane in a small town in upstate New York. Ellie is painfully aware that people think her family is odd. How many other kids have a mother who constantly enters beauty contests and dreams of becoming a famous actress? Like the Dingmans, the other families on the street are also looked upon as "not normal" by the townspeople. Ellie and the kids on Witch Tree Lane have to stick together to help shield themselves from the taunts and cruelties of other children. Still, bad things do happen - a rock is thrown through a window, a mailbox is glued shut, and the beautiful old oak tree at the end of the cul-de-sac is spray-painted. In addition to all of this, Ellie and her best friend are tormented by bullies at school on a daily basis.
At home, it's clear to Ellie that Doris is more interested in her modeling job at the local department store or what she'll wear as the Queen of the Harvest Parade than with any problems that Ellie faces. This sad realization doesn't stop Ellie from desperately wanting her mother to find happiness in simply being with her family.
But it's the assassination of President Kennedy that catapults the Dingman family into a crisis. While the rest of the country mourns the loss of a beloved president and grieves with his young widow and two small children, Doris sees the tragedy only in terms of herself, her needs, and her unfulfilled ambitions. A determination to "make her dreams come true" puts Doris on a path that doesn't include her family or life in a small town. In the subsequent process of dealing with abandonment and loss, Ellie learns that she's stronger than she'd ever thought, and that her family has what it takes to survive difficult times.
Here Today is my third novel set in the 1960's. I grew up during this time and I was eight years old when President Kennedy was killed. Because my memories of that day are still very vivid, I've always wanted to incorporate that unique time in our history into one of my stories. I hope that you enjoy reading about Ellie, her family, and her out-of-the-ordinary neighbors on Witch Tree Lane as much as I enjoyed writing about them.