“What is past is prologue.”—William Shakespeare
That query produces either giggles or groans from the exhausted parents in charge of navigating to grandma’s house—or anywhere else that’s taken a long time. My grandmother told me that wasn’t something her parents had to deal with, because children of her day didn’t grow up with automobiles. Carriage rides were slower but a lot more interesting. We tend to assume our children today know how annoying that question is, which is why it’s become the biggest travelers’ tease of the last century.
My father had a ‘bad news/good news’ retort for us, which came to mind recently as I worked on my third book in the 19th century family saga I’m writing. Daddy would answer us by saying the bad news was no, we weren’t there yet, but the good news was we were somewhere, inferring that we should enjoy wherever we were. That’s not where we want to be, we’d grumble, and he’d respond by telling us we’d better be very sure of that before we cast it off for something else. Naturally, by the time all of that was maneuvered, we’d usually reached our intended destination.
I remembered all that writing about my protagonist, Emily de Koningh. She spent most of her young life aiming for stardom as a solo violinist with a happily balanced family life, which was an impossibly high bar for a woman in the eighteen-hundreds. In the third book of this series, she finds herself there, but realizes she hasn’t gotten where she wants to be. What is that yearning for something just beyond our reach? Where does patience figure into it, if at all? Is the trip itself not worthy of our attention, or only the destination? I realize more and more lately that the dilemma we all find ourselves in with this pandemic is much the same.