Had a fleeting breakfast in McKinney, Texas, yesterday morning with Laura Froelich, known as “Derba” to those of us who go way back. People who’ve read the dedication (but not the acknowledgments) in Tinsel ask who this Laura person is that she would rank above not only my mother (also a dedicatee) but also Michael (oh yeah, him). (And yet she is not the same Laura — Trujillo — to whom I dedicated Off Ramp.)
Laura Froelich (nee McCall) and I met in 9th grade Spanish I class (5th period) on what must have been the first day of high school, 1982. We’ve been laughing pretty much ever since the teacher made us trill our r’s.
Tinsel wouldn’t exist without her. Situated in North Dallas, Derba was my support staff, my other set of eyes, my therapist, and the person I told everything about the book as it was coming together. She read parts of it when it was still pages and pages of material about North Texas pioneers and soil strata. (The earliest and most horrid draft of Tinsel had a, shall we say, John McPhee sort of beginning.) She believed in the book (and believed it would get done) whenever I didn’t. There’s nothing about this book she doesn’t know and her wit and intelligence and empathy helped shape it.
And frankly, I showed up to breakfast Thursday morning once again feeling sort of low. I’m getting a bit tired and trying so hard to make good things happen for this book. Within 30 minutes, Derba had me back up and on my way to D/FW to catch a flight to Seattle. Driving away, I realized that this is it for a while. Derba thinks I’m not coming back to see her. “You’ll never be back,” she whined. Boy is she wrong.