(Having to write this all over again because the Internet suddenly fell down while I was writing it and I didn’t know it till I hit “Publish,” which makes me livid, all that time and hard work for nothing.)
Probably sometime in December of ’91, I started the original beginning of this book, which had the lame, after school special-worthy title Fitting In and a planned plot worthy of a Beatrice Sparks book or some over the top after school special. I returned to it with a vengeance on 3 September 1993 and have been working steadily on it ever since, with relatively few breaks. What was intended as just the story of a young girl coming of age during WWII and going to college and starting her family during the restrictive Fifties turned into the entire story of her life from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on. It’s going to end up as a 12-volume book, ending only with her death and journey to the afterlife in late 2050.
My favorite section will always be the first half or so of Saga I, the Forties, since it’s so lightweight, carefree, fun, and funny, before the mature, serious, complex stuff crept in. It was just the simple story of a young girl experiencing life and having fun. The misadventures she and her neighbor and friend Violet have while babysitting for other neighbor Mrs. Valli’s kids remind me of a female Laurel and Hardy. I also love Sagas V and VI, the Eighties and Nineties, since I was finally able to write about peers who were kids, preteens, and teens in the same era I was. I was no longer writing about young people during decades I never lived through.
Saga I: “All This and World War II”: Cinni, her friends, and their siblings experience life, love, joy, sorrow, and history as they come of age during World War II. Along the way, Cinni meets and falls in love with an eloquent immigrant boy from Bulgaria, Levon Kevorkian, and their lives will never be the same ever again.
Saga II: Those Crazy Fifties: Cinni and her friends go to college and start getting married and having kids during the often restrictive decade. As Cinni and Levon’s family grows, they also must deal with their hangups about holding onto their technical virginity. Even if they’re unable to get married yet under the circumstances, they consider themselves married in their hearts, and they’ve had quite a few children by not technically going all the way. Obsessing over such an abstract concept that doesn’t make sense in the modern era is only holding them back.
Saga III: Decade of Peace and War: What begins as a placid decade of domesticity and peace eventually turns into one of the most tumultuous eras of the 20th century. Instead of finally being officially married after Levon’s honorable discharge, Cinni becomes a de facto single mother to ten children when a power-thirsty general answering only to himself forces Levon back into active service. She struggles to hold down the fort while he’s away in Vietnam, and at the same time struggles with her religious identity. By the end of the decade, Cinni’s children and her friends’ children have become teenagers and are going through all the same things their parents did during the Forties.
Saga IV: Decade of Disco: Cinni is still holding down the fort as Levon is away in Vietnam. She envies her oldest children for being married and starting their own families. A nightmare is unleashed when Urma Smart launches a sick scheme targeting Cinni’s daughter Olga and Levon is forced back to Vietnam at a time when troops are being pulled. The increasingly deranged general, Lazarian, eventually evicts Cinni and her remaining children from the Army base house they’ve lived in for years. With her common-law husband assumed dead, Cinni is forced into the role of a young widow as her youngest children and their friends go through their teenage years while the decade draws to a close.
Saga V: The Reagan Years: Cinni is increasingly becoming unbalanced under the stress of being without Levon and bouncing from house to house since Lazarian evicted her. To try to channel her heartache and shattered mental state, she tries to arrange a marriage between her youngest child Atlanta and Kit’s son Leo, in spite of both happily being in other relationships. To try to accomplish this, she sends Atlanta’s boyfriend, Max’s son Fudzie, away to Paris. By the time Levon escapes Lazarian and comes home, will it be too late to stop this farce wedding and get Atlanta back with Fudzie? And what other surprises are in store for Cinni, her children, their friends, and her grandchildren during the remainder of the Eighties?
Saga VI: Children’s Children: Cinni’s grandchildren and her friends’ grandchildren are now the authors of the saga of their lives. The world they inhabit as they come of age and start their own families is a far cry from the world Cinni and her friends knew during the Forties and Fifties. The Internet, life on a Haifa kibbutz, a New Age synagogue, and the transformation of Violet’s ancestral mansion into a hippie commune run by Cinni’s youngest son Ainsworth are only some of the adventures they experience during the Nineties. This new generation also no longer lives in Atlantic City, but in locales including New York City, England, Israel, Washington, D.C., Berkeley, and Boston. The decade closes with a dramatic, permanent goodbye to one of the neighborhood’s oldest landmarks, the old school, as a fire breaks out on Prom Night 1999.
Sagas VII through XII haven’t been written yet.