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Story Behind the Story #12:
Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name

Sometimes I Think I Hear My NameMy eldest son had a class­mate, a good friend. We’ll call him Toby. A lik­able, polite, full-of-fun kid, Toby was around our house often. I did­n’t know much about him, save one thing: he lived with his grand­par­ents, not his par­ents. I believe it was my son who told me that. It was noth­ing I pur­sued, but at school occa­sions I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet these nice grand­par­ents, where we exchanged pleas­antries about our two boys.

One day, as spring break approached, my son was mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for a week of Boy Scout camp­ing. Toby was at our house. “Toby,” I asked. “Have plans for spring break?”

He said, “I want­ed to go vis­it my par­ents, but my grand­par­ents said I could­n’t. So I’m just stay­ing home.”

That gave me pause. I decid­ed I need­ed to know a lit­tle more.

What I learned was not much, but a lot. Via the par­ents of anoth­er of my son’s friends-who knew Ian’s grand­par­ents far bet­ter than I did, I learned that Toby’s par­ents had been divorced, that they lived in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, and had been deemed “unsuit­able” as par­ents, and that Toby’s grand­par­ents had been named guardians by a court. That’s all I learned, and it was made clear I would not learn more. I had no par­tic­u­lar desire to pur­sue it.

These cir­cum­stances, how­ev­er, became the basis of my book, Some­times I Think I Hear My Name. It tells the sto­ry of Owen, who lives with his aunt and uncle in St. Louis, but runs away to track down his par­ents in New York City. With the help of a secre­tive girl, Nan­cy, a girl with a but­ter­fly tat­too (this was pub­lished in 1982) he finds his par­ents. The results are devastating.

Curi­ous­ly enough, per­haps a year lat­er, the real Toby did have a chance to vis­it with one of his par­ents. As I would learn, what hap­pened was, alas, very much like the plot of my nov­el. Some­times I Think I Hear My Name, is, I think, the sad­dest book I have ever written.

2 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #12:<br><em>Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name</em>”

  1. Thank you. Your blog always moves me, but this time it was close to home. My heart began a heavy anx­ious beat. I just real­ized that it has always done that when the top­ic comes up. Thank you for address­ing seri­ous topics.
    Gillian

    Reply

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