MORE THAN WORDS CAN SAY by Robert Barclay
I began writing, I knew that I wanted to incorporate some of my own
life’s experiences into the book, along with an authentic sense of
history. "Write about what you know!" is the very good advice that
hopeful writers often hear. I already knew about lakeside cottages,
fishing, boating, and hiking. What I did not know much about, however,
was what civilian life was what like in America during World War II, the
other time period I hoped to use in the book. Luckily, I was able to get
some firsthand knowledge on that score, because both of my parents still
carry with them vivid recollections of those days.
During the war, my mother's father was a chicken farmer in upstate New
York. Part of his operation was a successful feed store. Although every
American was experiencing the rationing of foodstuffs, gasoline,
alcohol, etc., because of my grandfather's occupation, my mother's
family ate very well--provided one liked a steady diet of chicken and
eggs! Even so, acquiring most other things remained as difficult for
them as it was for everyone else. My Mom has oftentimes told me how the
chickenfeed was regularly delivered to their farm in gingham bags, and
rather than throw the bags away, her mother would reuse them to make
dresses for herself and her two older sisters. During those days, one
did what one must.
My Father's experience was rather different. A bit too young to be
drafted during World War II, he became a likable rogue, and literally
made his living buying and selling gas ration stamps on the black
market. And aside from not having a clubfoot, I am told by my Mom that
my Dad both looked and behaved much like Greg Butler. As I wrote the
book, each of my parents continued to give me valuable insight and
details into what life was like during World War II, and how they dealt
with the various hardships of those days.
Sometime around 1966, my mother and father bought a lakeside cottage in
Ontario, about a six-hour drive from our home. The cottage was located
on a lake called Round Lake, and it is in fact an exact duplicate to the
one that Chelsea inherits in the book. Our boathouse, too, was nearly
identical to Chelsea’s.
This was where my father taught me how to fish, run a speedboat, and
fillet and cook walleyes. And, not far from the cottage there lays a
high outcropping called Red Rock Mountain, where both the climb and the
view from the top are virtually identical to those experienced by
Chelsea, Brandon, Brooke, and Greg. I can still remember clambering to
the top of that peak, nearly every time I visited the cabin. And, just
like the fireplace hearth in Chelsea's cabin that was made entirely of
rose quartz rocks, so too was the fireplace in our cabin, its stones
also harvested from the vicinity of Red Rock Mountain.
To my great delight, one day while I was visiting the cottage, a
floatplane landed on the lake and then taxied down to the cottage next
door, where the pilot exited the plane and tied her up at their dock.
Hopelessly intrigued, I couldn’t help to wander over and ask about it.
The pilot was more than happy to take me for a ride, which immediately
sparked my interest in flying. Two years later I got my pilot's license,
and helped enable me to describe Brandon's flying experiences in the
Like Chelsea's grandmother Brooke, my paternal grandmother Joyce was
also a gentle, loving, and artistic soul. And like Brooke, Joyce loved
to paint. Sadly, I too lost my grandmother around the same time in my
life that Chelsea loses Brooke. Since writing, "More Than Words Can
Say", I have oftentimes wished that my grandmother had bequeathed to me
a secret diary, just as Brooke had done for Chelsea. Sadly, however,
that was not the case.
To my great dismay, my parents decided to sell their beloved lakeside
cottage in 1985. I can still remember the last time I visited. The
windows were boarded up, the boathouse had already been locked and
closed, the dock had been pulled ashore, and winter was fast
approaching. Knowing that the cottage was being sold, I had gone there
to be alone for a few days. I still can remember standing in the living
room before that rose quartz fireplace and literally saying goodbye to
the place, before I glumly locked the door, put the key in my pocket,
and finally drove back home for the last time.
I have often thought that I might inquire about the cottage and try to
buy it from whoever owns it now, but the distances involved, and my
wife's busy neuropsychology practice, would make visiting there
impractical. Therefore, I shelved the idea, much the way each of us is
sometimes forced to lovingly stow away our dreams. But who knows?
Perhaps someday I will in fact buy back my father's wonderful old
cottage. Or maybe at least visit there, in an attempt to relive some of
my most cherished memories.
But for now, at least, having incorporated that lovely old place into
“More Than Words Can Say” will simply have to do.
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