Emily’s mother is quite a woman. She juggles a full time job, three children and the singles scene. Granted, in the small town she lives the singles scene isn’t so much a scene as it is the occasional set-up by one of her married friends. “You know Susan, my brother is recently divorced,” is something Susan would hear from time to time and cringe at the thought. “Great! The newly divorced are always so much fun,” she would say.
Emily’s mom is fun loving but strict; sweet but stern all at the same time. She trusts Emily to make the right decisions but eases her in the direction she thinks is best.
Now to address how I created Susan Parker. Let me first say that arriving at a name for this very influential character was difficult. I’ve gone through about four iterations finally settling on Susan. Like all of my character names, this one just felt right. Did I base her on anyone I know? What do you think? Not only does she embody some of the characteristics of my mother but I also drew from my friends mothers. When I was in middle and high school the sleep-overs were many. Almost every weekend one of my friends was at my house or I was at hers. I grew close to all of my friends mothers and learned to appreciate them individually. I watched as they influenced their daughters and I learned so much from them. It’s this combination that makes up Susan.
Below is an excerpt from the beginning of Call Me Emily. Emily arrives home after her first day at school to find a message from her mom. She’s determined to unwind in a bath but calls her mom back first.
The bathroom was tiny but had a nice tub, which was one of the features that made me decide on this particular apartment. I started the water and added some lavender bubble bath – a gift from my mom. Oh, Mom! I needed to call her back, too. I could call Jessica from the tub, but I had better call my mom first or I’d never hear the end of it. I let the water run, sat on the closed toilet seat and dialed Mom’s work number.
“This is Susan,” She answered on the second ring.
“Hey Mom, it’s me.”
“Hi honey.” She sounded happy. “How was your first day?”
“Good, I picked up all my textbooks and got my student ID. Oh and I met a girl, a freshman like me, from out of state.”
“Really, that’s great. You made a friend sweetie.”
“Mom, knock it off! I’m not four years old.”
“I was just kidding,” she said. “So tell me about your day.”
“I met Allison while we were in line to get our photo IDs taken. She’s just as nervous as I am about starting school. Then we had lunch together after. It was fun.” I shifted to get more comfortable.
“Yeah? That’s great! Did you see Ethan?”
“We ran into him at the bookstore. He was picking up a few books himself.” I paused remembering running into him. “I called him to see if he wanted to get together this afternoon, but he wasn’t home.”
“Well, I’ll tell him …”
“No! Mom, don’t call him. We’re fine; he doesn’t have to spend every waking hour with me.”
“But you don’t know anyone there, Emily.”
“Yeah I do. Remember my new friend Allison.” I laughed. And it really was OK. I knew my brother wouldn’t want to spend all his time with his little sister. It was true; I knew this, but still, I was a little lonely.
“Hey Mom, I’m going to get in the tub now. Thanks for checking on me; I’ll call you soon.”
“OK dear, be good.”
“I will. Love you.”
“Love you too. And don’t forget…phone home.”
She always said that to my brother. It must apply to me now, too. I hung up and turned off the tub water. It was just like I liked it: super deep and full of bubbles. The scent of lavender filled the room and seemed to float down the hall in clouds. I walked into the bedroom and kicked off my flip fops, pulled my tee-shirt over my head, and wiggled out of my jeans. Tossing my clothes on the bed, I turned on the little clock radio next to it and walked back to the bathroom. Yes I could hear it fine from here. Like I said, it was a pretty small place.