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Sandra Waugh
Sandra Waugh Sandra Waugh
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Sandra Waugh

I grew up in a small town in one old house and then another, where my sister, brother and I were free to wander on foot and bicycle, stuff quarters in our pockets and trek to Mr. Cook's candy store by the mill pond, or climb on the stone ruins of Gablehurst in the woods behind our barn.

My father was a mystery writer, my mother far more practically employed but very much a dreamer. Together they packed our creaky house with books and smart conversation; I liked best when they packed us into the car for visits to our beloved Nana, her twin, Dazma, and their glorious apartment in New York City. There my sister and I would fling wide the closet doors, try on high heels and mascara and L'Heure Bleue, and then we'd grab my brother, sneak into the incinerator room and scare ourselves silly listening to the faint roar of the faraway fire. Eventually Mom would track us down and march us off the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I'd loll on benches dramatically crippled with exhaustion and she'd calmly inform me that one day I'd thank her.

I do thank her. I thank everyone for sharing eclectic bits and pieces that became me—that I love both country and city, that I love bare feet and stilettos and cutoffs and cocktail dresses, that I am still scared silly by imaginary things but will cut through Central Park at night without hesitation, that I am inspired by the history of art and the art of history. That I am both writer and dreamer.

I didn't always intend to write. I devoured books, worked at the library, kept threads of stories in my head. But I saw writing as my father's job—I didn't want a job, I wanted to live my passions. Acting was my first passion, dance another, and so I made a beeline for New York after college... But that's a different tale. I'll leave it that after many highs and lows (and becoming an amazingly adept waitress) things sorted themselves out. Words are as lyrical on the page as they are spoken, I've realized, and no less passionate. As for dance, teaching Nia does a lot to satisfy those cravings.

Strange how you can run madly off in one direction only to wind up back at home base. It's not that you didn't get anywhere; you're just better prepared to set out on the next adventure. I'm back in a small town with my husband, two sons and one goldendoodle in an old house we've packed with books. New York is a recurring destination along with the Metropolitan, where we walk the familiar, echoing halls. I tell my children they will someday thank us for this. And then I find the nearest bench.