A wooden plaque containing the final two lines of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” used to hang in my classroom. Now, it adorns a shelf in my writing sanctuary at home. It is one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets. However, “The Road” is one of those poems that readers can get remarkably wrong, erroneously interpreting the final stanza (and therefore the entire poem) to mean success lies in forging pathways away from the crowd. That interpretation not only ignores the poem’s first three stanzas (which clearly describe the similarities between the two roads), it also ignores the regretful tone of the final lines and the thematic ambivalence with which Frost imbued all of his poetry. Think “Fire and Ice,” another favorite. (Read it here.)
So what does this have to do with the stories I choose to tell here? Good question.
First the facts: When I was six, my family moved from Philadelphia to Dauphin, a small town north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I graduated with honors from Pennsylvania State University, where I majored in English and minored in Political Science. At the University of Delaware, I began my teaching career as a graduate teaching assistant and earned an MA in English Literature. Currently, I live near Philadelphia with my family, and I recently retired from teaching English at a New Jersey high school. As you may have inferred, I love to read and write. I also love gardening, classical music, muscle cars, and football.
Here’s another fact: I’m glad my name isn’t Elizabeth Ann, and not only because then my initials would be EAR. How awful would that be? Instead, I am MER, the French word for sea, which as a Pisces pleases me to no end. Nonetheless, I have always been haunted by my stolen name. By the idea that my life would have been very different had my mother not been forced to change my name last minute. Walking the landscape that change created has made me more aware of events, people, decisions, and stories whose occurrences are like Frost’s “two roads[,] diverged.” Once chosen, there can be no turning back.
Except through stories.
On my blog, you’ll find original fiction and personal essays about literature, writing, and education. All of them are shaped by reflections on the question, What if?
I hope you like them.
If not, I’ll tell you another.