Before I could read I often tried to circumnavigate my mother towards toy stores. The moment I learnt how to read, books became my entire world. My mother had to change her route to try and avoid the local Dymocks store. It was here she spent so much money buying me books. I would hold up a book in my tiny hands and she would give me the ‘frown smile’ (where her eyes are frowning in disapproval at yet another book but she would be smiling to say she’ll give in anyway because my mum is the kindest, most generous person I’ve ever known).
She had always loved the author Bryce Courtenay so she would read The Power of One to me. If bile rises to my throat and tears well in my eyes when I hear of racism, it is all my mother’s doing. Her emotional character taught me so much about love.
One day I came home from school to find my mother excited, holding her car keys. Bryce Courtenay was at our local Dymocks signing copies of his new book. I was shocked. We didn’t have time to pick up a book for him to sign, so mum said I could pick any book I wanted and she would buy it for me. I picked up the one that spoke to me immediately.
A Recipe for Dreaming
And she let me buy two books. I waited in line. When my turn came, the lovely man was so thrilled to have an 8-year-old fan, exclaiming I had to be one of his youngest. He was jovial and excited by every person. He made me come around the table to sit next to him and he asked me what on earth a young thing like me was doing visiting an old thing like him. My mum said I wanted to be an author, just like him. That I would write stories in my notebooks. She told him how much I loved his book The Power of One with a big smile on her face, which meant that she had loved it too, but didn’t think she had any right to say so.
He declared with resolute determination, ‘Sheree, I will help you become a famous author one day. Bring your stories to me and I will help you publish them. You’re going to be famous one day, I can tell’.
And so he wrote in my book, The Potato Factory: ‘To Sheree, the Famous Author’.
And then in a recipe for dreaming, ‘To Sheree, the Dreamer.’
My older brother texted me just hours ago asking me if I had heard about Bryce dying of terminal cancer, with only months to live. I had not. (It was a big deal that I had met him at such a young age…my family saw it as a sign). My brother told me I had better finish that novel I had promised to Bryce.
The soul-crushing weight of my unfinished novel impacted me and my tears flooded the taxi I was in on the way home. The eight-year-old in me wants so desperately to finish writing it, chipping away at it every day, in order to show it to Bryce before he leaves us and fulfil a promise.
And I can’t help but think…if only I could fly.
‘We need to dream, as a soaring imagination is the glue that keeps our soul from shattering under the impact of a prosaic world’. – BC.