We all have our obsessions and fascinations, and I have mine. History. More specifically ancient history. Israel, Egypt, Babylonia, Syria, Turkey, Greece, all those biblical places that seem to captivate the minds of those religious and yes, those not so religious. We are a breed unto ourselves. We allow our imaginations to wonder, to dream what it would be like to breathe the same air of a people we can only know through what they left behind for us to interpret in the nuts and bolts of their daily lives.
But after that aspect falls away, when we have nothing left to garner from the physical evidence, the fantasy part kicks in. The good stuff we use to fill in the gaps of our obsessions, of which mine I can tell you goes back a long way.
So long in fact I do believe it started with the Encyclopedia Man. The door-to-door salesman, similar to his brethren the Fuller Brush Man, via my doorstep one day when I must have been no older than six or seven. He stood there all smiles in his coat and tie with his treasure of wares in the form of books. Beautifully bound, leather things, each exquisitely lettered from A to Z, holding volumes of printed matter, of photographs—in color mind you—so picture perfect I’d never seen.
But for all this wealth of knowledge the price was high. Too high for my mother’s taste, she told me while I stood firm before her, tears on cue, the Encyclopedia Man just outside the screen door, but not out of earshot. I could tell he was used to this type of routine because he seemed a patient man. A friendly sort whose feathers didn’t ruffle easily by anything or anyone. Not even my mother.
Needless to say she caved. But we didn’t start with the letter “A”—which would have made sense and the likely place to start my education. Instead we started with “E” for Egypt, for no particular reason other than my Jewish roots of curiosity. And it was there that my life-long love affair with the pharaohs, the Great Sphinx, a civilization and a people so advanced began and for which I had no choice but to commit myself to, body and soul. I didn’t know then what it meant to be hooked, hooked by the Encyclopedia Man, but that’s exactly what had happened to me. And what I turned out to be: A history junkie. Mainlining everything I could straight into the cortex of my brain, fast and furious.
But then I stopped. Rather suddenly it seemed. I found myself detoxing for what felt like a hibernating winter, yet in fact it was years. Years when life got in the way. I raised two children, I cooked, I cleaned, I car-pooled, I helped an ex-husband grow a business. I did my part.
So I suppose it wasn’t a far reach for anyone, anyone who knew me that is, when I decided to write a book, crazy a notion as that whole thing was, that it should be historical in nature. And now years later and still writing, I’m realizing the challenge isn’t so much in the writing of my tale that’s doing me in, it’s the getting swept away by the spellbinding research of it all. The nose to the computer screen, the long hours that somehow fly by unnoticed as darkness falls outside my window. Yes, that’s the killer alright! And who do I have to thank for this quagmire of mine? The Encyclopedia Man. Who else?