Shelton High School looks much the same as it did the first time I saw it in August of 1988. At least superficially. But nothing escapes change. Everything evolves, and my old school is no exception.
I walked on the track, recalling the many times I ran after school at the direction of my coaches. The cold air echoed the memory of the crowd's roar during football games. I'm a little part of the field's past, a fact that puts a smile on my face.
It's been my most difficult piece to commit to the page.
Personal experience is a writer's fuel. Everything we write demands a piece of ourselves, and this novel demanded entire parts of my heart and soul, some that I didn't even know I had.
Even now, two decades later, the trophy cases at the main lobby evoked a series of emotions, and conjured an array of memories that I once thought lost.
To say that the first book of the My Two Flags series is dear to my heart would be a severe understatement. Although much of the novel exposes facets of the life I lived, I've gained enough experience to infuse a proper amount of fiction in order to give the story a unique tone; perhaps even a life of its own. Each character is a conglomeration of people who touched my life, and in many ways, shaped me into who I am today.
It took 24 years, not to write this novel in its present form, but to muster the courage to share it. I'm sure that once it's out there, in the hands of someone else, who may see themselves or someone they knew in the scenes, I may be more at peace with the fact that I willingly placed 24 years of work at the mercy of strangers.
In all honesty, I might have lost all perspective, for I'm too close to the story. I know who in my life inspired whom within its pages, and I can only hope I did an adequate enough job in portraying what they meant in the life of the kid I once was.
Maybe one of your parents or grandparents left their countries to give their children a life in America. Maybe you know a Chris Jawskowski. Maybe you stood up to a Mrs. Erhoff. Maybe you've been blessed with the friendship of a Patricia Paris. Maybe you were a Rex, a Beth, a Derek, a Sean. Maybe you forged a bond with someone different from you during a common struggle, be it sports, academics, or learning a new language.
Maybe you were able to find encouragement from a teacher like Mrs. Gennaro. Maybe, just maybe, you look back on those four years of high school as the starting point of the person you are today.
Javier A. Robayo