Thomas Wolfe, I think I have proved you wrong. You can go home again. At least I did.
I just spent two gold-and-blue autumn days on the campus of Judson College in Marion, Alabama, speaking about my book to individual classes. In more than one way, my visit turned into a homecoming.
Marion is the town I grew up in and the setting of Darkroom. Since we lived only two blocks away, my siblings and I used Judson’s campus as an extension of our playground. I especially loved the children’s section of the college library. In the photo below, my brother Johnny and I are taking a peek at Jewett’s parlors. (1962)
In fact, much of my family history passes through Judson College. My father taught there. My mother and my sisters Ginny and Lisa (Lissy, in the book) all graduated from Judson. I attended during my freshman year before transferring elsewhere.
For my official Judson appearance, I spoke to a creative-writing class, an art class and two sessions of history. I received a royal welcome. Dr. Joann Williams, Dr. Chris Hokanson, Mr. Jamie Adams and Dr. Joe Frazer, along with several students, took special care in making me feel at home. At a book signing held in Jewett Hall’s parlor, I visited with old friends from Marion as well as new readers from campus and around town. Over my two-day stay, I interacted with students and faculty in classrooms and the dining hall. It’s a small school with the intimate feel of family. In our conversations, it became obvious that faculty members care about the teaching profession and that Judson students receive more individual attention than is usual in college life. Kudos to Judson College for providing a great college experience to many women over the decades!
Judson rolled out a red carpet for me, but one outcome of my visit was pure serendipity. I got to go inside my childhood home, the house depicted in Darkroom. No one from my family had been inside it since we moved out in the late sixties. This door opened for me because Christina, a student in the art class that I spoke to, recognized the house from my PowerPoint slides. She volunteered to contact her friend, the owner. Zeke Hazewinkel has owned my former home for three years. He invited us over for a visit. This was something I’d always dreamed of doing, peeking inside the room I used to sleep in, the kitchen where my mother cooked, the tiny bathroom that my dad converted into a darkroom.
Zeke is a generous guy with a passion for art and photography. He had no idea that his house was featured in a book, nor that past occupants had developed photos in his half-bath. He was kind enough to photograph the interior of rooms so that my siblings could partake in my visit virtually. He also took a couple of shots of me holding original drawings from the book against a backdrop of their physical counterparts. Take a look.