Annie, the youngest daughter in my book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: a Memoir, sent me a card in the spring of 2015. It was after my birthday and before Mother’s Day. There was a picture of a bare limbed tree on a white background with hearts and sparkles all over the tree. Inside the message read, ‘This is a no-reason card. I thought about you and knew that you had to have this card so I purchased it and have sent it to you. I love you, Annie.’ I sat looking at the card and enjoying her message and wondering why I had to have this card. In the middle of the night I woke from a sound sleep and said, “That card is the cover of my new book!”
Now I’ll give you a little back-story, so that you will ultimately understand the title of this blog. When my second husband Sy and I put our families together there were five girls all with panties and socks and you-name-it laundry that was going to get mixed up at folding time and might never make it back to the right bureau draws. So I assigned colors to each of the girls and then when any new item came into the home I sewed a few threads of their particular color into an inconspicuous place on the garment. Well, the toes of their socks got the tag and the girls often whined that they couldn’t wear sandals in the spring because their tags showed. They didn’t get a choice of the color. I assigned a color that represented them to me because I was the one having to remember to whom each one of these items belonged.
Many years later when the publishers were asking if I had art work for the cover of my first book I said, “Yes,” and then went to my granddaughter, Nicole who was at the tender age of seventeen and showed her my card. “Could you draw me a tree of your own so I don’t have to struggle with copyright issues and then put colored hearts on it?” She pondered the card for a moment and then said, “Yes.” I continued, “I’ll also need a dragon and a bird since they are in the title.” I read her a couple of chapters in the book and sent her off to work her magic. She knew the story behind the bird and the dragon, which you are going to learn about when you read the book. I waited and waited and nagged and waited. Finally she brought me this picture which I just adored.
We took it to a friend to have it formatted as best he could and then sent it off to the publishers. They had it for a while and then sent it back saying Nicole had drawn it in such a way that when they enlarged it enough for their purposes it was grainy. We took it back to the format person to see if he could fix it. Sent it back to the publishers and they returned it saying that Nicole would need to use a different technique and make it larger. I thought she wouldn’t do it a second time but she did. We sent this picture off and the publishers said they could work with that design.
When I got the copy of the book for approval it looked marvelous to me but then as I sat with it I realized that the artistic editors had pushed the tree into such a position that one of the hearts was behind the word LOVE and you missed the word as you tried to make sense of the heart behind it. I emailed back to the art people and asked if they could move the tree farther to the right of the book and take out the heart behind the word. I told them that in fact I only needed five hearts on the tree for the five daughters in the family. When they sent it back the final time the tree is as you see it on the cover and they had left on it five hearts—the green one that was Cora’s color, the red one that was May’s color, the blue one that was Elizabeth’s color, the yellow one that was Felicia’s color and the pink one which should appear slightly more lavender for Annie’s color. All the rest of the hearts were gone. And what is even more intriguing is they placed Elizabeth’s blue heart at the top of the tree and she is the one the other girls turn to for a second opinion and they placed May’s red heart on the other side of the tree which has always been her position in the family, slightly outside of the activities. They even placed Felicia and Cora close together which was the first affiliation across family lines. Would you believe??!!
And one last unbelievable: the publishers set the ‘publish date’ for the book exactly thirty-nine years to the day of the day I first laid eyes on my Sy.
This is Ashleigh Nicole Moro my granddaughter and the artist who drew the cover that you see above. She is now a student at Lyme Academy College of Fine Art in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
I’d like to hear any of your stories about the unbelievable in your life.