(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read the book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)
My Ruby Slippers by Tracy Seeley is a wonderful story about how “place” defines us. Tracy had lived in 7 different towns and 13 different houses by the time she was nine years old. Finally, she adopted California as her home and grew tired of the “Wizard of Oz” references whenever she mentioned where she had grown up.“There’s no place like home? Are you kidding? Nearly everyone I meet here has escaped Kansas or somewhere like it, and no one dreams of going home. Who would give up her sparkling ruby dancing shoes for a farm house in the middle of a desiccated nowhere?”
And not unlike Dorothy, a tornado (but this time of an emotional sort) drew Tracy back to explore the places that she temporarily called home. After her parents died two weeks apart from each other, Tracy found a list of addresses barely secured with aged tape inside of her baby book and ultimately decided to find out about where she really came from. She says, “Now I’d lost my chance to ask my parents for more. But in their dying, I’d also gained the freedom from being their child. I could map our emotional landscapes to the places we had lived, free of their watchful and wary eyes.”
A lot of things happen to the author that aren’t so fabulous but she is never whiny and does not seem angry (although I am sure that was a hard fought settling in of acceptance). I love the conversational, reflective tone of the story. It really is about discovery that slowly reveals itself and, just as slowly, is digested. As I read this book, I felt like I could have been sitting next to the author on a long flight, getting to know her. At times, it was as if she was talking about someone else, simply sharing insights and memories and allowing those listening to draw conclusions for themselves. Tracy’s own story delicately unfolds amid the history of many of the places she visited. History buffs will be particularly drawn in to these parts of the book.
Toward the beginning of her story, Tracy takes a class on meditation. She learned to practice focused, deliberate breathing. That is how reading her story feels – deep breath in…..exhale….. deep breath in again.
Tracy shares a lot with the reader about what it meant to be a part of her family on a very personal level. She allows the reader to like and dislike both of her parents. Her father was a selfish man who inflicted a lot of emotional pain on the pivotal women in his life, assuming that their forgiveness was automatic, even when it wasn’t earned or asked for. Her mother was forgiving to a fault. Tracy’s father wrote down his own mini-memoir in letters to his own brother before he died. In his final act of abandonment and betrayal, Tracy was not included in the story.
There are some sub-stories that she dangles but does not explore very deeply. We don’t learn much about her own children and I never fully understood why her sister wanted to commit suicide. She does not delve too far into her own experience with breast cancer. At one point, she mentions that she has a slant towards ghosts but never expands on that.
Maybe more books are coming – and that would be a very good thing. I would love to hear about the other parts of her life.
All in all, though, this is a story worth reading. Tracy magically captured how places grow along with the people who absorb them and why that matters. She writes, “It’s about inhabiting every place, fully knowing why the land is there and what it teaches. Living in ways that sustain the ecology of our place. And that includes the people.”