Dad's Hidden Box...Stories of Love and War
Fathers and daughters have long been a topic of interest in almost every genre of literature. Fictional as well as non-fictional relationships between these family members have charted many a course.
Writer Wendy VanHatten has jumped into these often very-deep literary waters with her latest book, Dad's Hidden Box … Stories of Love and War.
In this 128 page personal memoir –available in both paperback and Kindle format - she explores the stories she heard as a child from her World War II father. When he shared those experiences, she recounts in the book’s preface, he also shared his personal treasure trove of war memorabilia.
To his war tales she adds her own insights. There were inconsistencies and, in some cases, more than she could understand as a child who found his retellings exciting and adventurous.
But that treasure trove – which she inherited - contained much more than beloved World War II items. It also included family secrets that gave VanHatten more insights than she had expected into who her father really was.
We sat down recently to discuss the book. Here is a part of our conversation:
Q: Why did you decided to write about your father’s hidden box?
A: As a child and then as a teenager, it was always a special time when Dad brought the box out. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was reliving some moments and cherishing others. When I found the box again during a move, I looked through it more thoroughly and cataloged Dad’s items. During that time, I found out something else. That prompted a book…
Q: Was it difficult to ‘relive’ and then write about those storytelling days with him?
A: Some of them for him…yes. Some of his stories and memories were not good ones. He didn’t tell us the bad ones until we were older. And, I’m positive he didn’t share everything with us. As I became older, I noticed gaps in his stories. I imagine those were too painful or too bad for him to recall. As for me, I could almost see Dad approving of me writing this. It was therapeutic in some ways for me. It was also difficult remembering exact stories. Perhaps that’s okay.
Q: Can you briefly describe your relationship with your father. Did it change after writing the book?
A: Dad was special to me. I enjoyed being around him. He was the one who introduced me to traveling, and I get my love of traveling and travel writing from him. Nothing about him or the way I remember him changed after writing the book. I always thought of him as a hero…war or not. I still do, even after he passed away.
Q: Can you give us a hint about one of the secrets you uncovered?
A: Life changing situations happen all the time. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about Dad and World War II…except for the ugliness he didn’t want to share.
Q: What tips do you have for other writers who want to write about family stories?
A: When family members talk about history, events, relatives, or whatever it is…take notes, record their stories, and ask questions. One thing I wish I would have done with Dad, is to record his stories word for word.
Research. If there is an event or a place a family member mentions, research it. Then, ask questions of that family member. You may prompt another memory and gain more information for your story.
VanHatten’s other books include Champagne Lies, Vineyard Secrets, Dark Legacy, and the Max and Myron series for children. Editor of Prime Time Living Magazine, she is also on the Board of Directors of Bay Area Travel Writer organization. She is also a professional copy editor.