Recreating a Lost Childhood in Vienna

From my first trip to Vienna in 1980 I never forgot the gargoyle over the imposing front door. I took this photo when I visited Vienna for the second time in 2012. It captures something of the mystery this building always had for me when I was growing up and my mother would describe her childhood in a faraway city I’d never seen. She was never able to return to this house, it was too burdened with painful memories.

I have never forgotten the feeling of my childhood room, even years later. My childhood phone number is still taking up room in my memory banks. Perhaps you are still carrying similar memories around with you, many houses later.

As a writer, it’s worth taking time to visualize the rooms where we lived as children, whether they were sites of pain or delight, or some mix of the two. When I began to work on Eva and Eve, I knew I wanted to create scenes from my mother’s childhood that would feel vivid and engage all the senses. I ended up incorporating some of my own sensory memories into fictional scenes: the smells of our kitchen in Manhattan, dishes I knew my mother had learned to make as a child and then made for us.

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