Of the characters I’ve created Angela Delphinium Forrest is my favorite. A woman of a certain age, she is charming, unpredictable, attractive, intelligent and whimsical. She’s a wonderful hostess, be it a planned dinner or a surprise midnight invasion of nosy neighbors. She can whip up cookies for one hundred or a Thanksgiving dinner for twelve at a moment’s notice. She owns the appropriate clothes for any event. On Thanksgiving Day she might be the perfect Pilgrim. In the dead of night, a sleek black cat burglar – with a splash of red at the neck, of course. She may be eccentric, verging on sheer lunacy, but she loves her family, is fiercely protective, and is always up for anything that sounds like trouble.
This lovely lady is, of course, an invention, but she has her roots in three wonderful women I have been fortunate to have in my life; Jean Petersen, Regina Clover, Mary Garrison.
Jean Petersen, my dear mother-in-law, is as lovely today as she was when I first met her almost fifty years ago. She is the perfect mother-in-law – never intrusive, always helpful. Family always comes first for Jean and we rely on her wisdom and support. She is a great cook and the ideal hostess. And she is an intelligent lady who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Regina Clover, my mother, died 1986. I still miss her. She had a wicked sense of humor and a keen intelligence. She loved to tease people, my father especially. She accepted what life dealt out with patience and faith and there was rarely a situation where she couldn’t find something to laugh about. And although my father and brother were the writers in the family, my mother is the person who instilled in me my love of books, especially mysteries.
While Angela became a distillation of all these women, Mary Garrison, my best friend’s mother and something of a second mother to me, was the original inspiration for the character. Mary was a complex mixture of naiveté, gullibility, common sense, intelligence and business savvy. She loved life and people and her family most of all. She was a lady who rolled with the punches and usually found something good somewhere in the chaos. And Mary did indeed dress for every occasion – be it a sweater, skirt and knee socks for going back to school at sixty-something or a complete country western ensemble when visiting out New Mexico.
Mary left us in September. She is missed by so many people. And I’ve been feeling like my muse left with her. I have been having a very hard time writing Angela. But I suddenly realized that Angela, like Mary, Jean and Regina, knows that the secret when encountering stumbling blocks in life is simply to do the next right thing. So starting today, Angela is back in business -wearing a black wool sheath by St. John covered in white dog hair and a Red Sox baseball cap.