My parents were originally from Hungary, but they lived in Australia before I was born. Then, in 1954, they immigrated to the US. My brother, sister and I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Although I was the youngest of the three kids, I often felt like I had to take care of everyone else. My brother had problems at school and needed lots of help with his homework, and my sister was temperamental. I was the smiling one who tried to make everyone else happy. In general, I really was a happy kid. I played outside with the neighborhood kids every day after school and most of the day during the summer. We did not go into the neighbors' houses. Most of the families were big, and nobody wanted more children in their houses than they already had. Our neighborhood was racially and economically diverse. On one side of our house lived a couple with nine children. The father was a mail carrier and the mother was a childcare provider. On the other side were two English professors with four children. We played games, built forts, and climbed the gingko tree in the abandoned churchyard across the street.
I also spent a lot of time at home with my family. Mostly we spoke Hungarian in the house because my grandmother (Anya in MARIKA) lived with us, and she didn't speak English. We ate dinner together every night, and I often lingered after the meal to listen to my parents tell stories of their pasts. I used to lie down underneath the table, and the adults would forget that I was there. I heard stories of the war, the holocaust, the hard times in Australia.
I was lucky to have a lot of good teachers in elementary school. I especially liked my sixth grade teacher who encouraged me in my writing. She read my stories carefully and wrote comments all over them. I remember walking home at the end of the day, very excited about a story I had written, and anxious to read it out loud to my father. He loved my stories and reading to him became a part of the after dinner routine.
I was not as happy in high school. I seemed to have worse teachers, and I became self conscious about my curly hair and skinny build. I wished I had long straight hair like my sister. She seemed to have lots of boyfriends all the time, and although I had a group of friends, I often felt lonely or different.
College was an improvement over high school in many ways. I went to Cornell University, and some of my English teachers were interesting and inspiring. I made friends, had a few boyfriends, and enjoyed my independence. I often felt different or outside of the mainstream, but it didn't bother me as much. In fact, feeling like an outsider spurred me to write. I felt like I could write intimately about a number of worlds from both inside and out.
I received a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second language from Cornell University.
It was at Cornell that I met Jim, my future husband. He is the son of Chinese immigrants, and we found that our families shared many common values. We moved back to Cincinnati to be close to my parents, and our three children were born there.
Nicholas was born in 1985. He was always trying to understand how things worked. When he was five, he started taking apart telephones and answering machines. By the time he was eight, he was fixing them. When he was 12, he started taking apart old computers. By the time he was fourteen he was fixing them. Nicholas is now 29. He met his wife, Xinzhe, in China, and they are now living in California.
Jane was born two years after Nick. When she turned four, I realized that she could read. She spent much of her childhood immersed in the world of books. Now Jane is my best reader and editor. She's not afraid to tell me if one of my stories is so bad that it needs to be scrapped. She also is very enthusiastic when she likes my work. Jane is now 27, and married to Alex, who is Swiss. They are living in Zurich, Switzerland where she works as a graphic designer.
Ann was born smiling. She used to pretend a lot when she was little, either by herself or with her siblings, cousins, and friends . Now she is 24 and teaching middle school in inner city Boston.
Ten years ago, we got Irvy, our cat. The lady who found her told us she was a lap cat, but that's not usually true. Irvy definitely has a mind of her own. When she feels like it, she sits on our laps; when she doesn't, she likes to go outside and catch things. We are all crazy about her.