Photo By: Mel Fechter

Excerpts

The Prologue

In the prologue I have included a true story from my youth, as an example to colorfully illustrate why we need to carefully consider all decisions. Here are some excerpts from that story:

    "One Sunday Mom packed a lunch and provisions appropriate for a trip that would fill the whole day, and surprised us with an outing to the Lava Beds National Monument. It’s an ancient volcanic area, laced with lava tubes and caves, and volcanic rock formations of all kinds for kids to touch and explore. For Mom and Grandma there were birds and wildflowers to enjoy while we played among the rocks.

    About 3:30 pm Mom reluctantly announced that it was time to leave, so we could be home by dark. We all dutifully piled into our little ‘52 Plymouth coupe—Mom, sister Evie, Cousin Billy, my elderly grandma, and, of course, me, at about age 14 and a real know-it-all. Off we went, on a seemingly ordinary return home, the memory of which still remains a topic of light-hearted conversation in the family after many years. For me it has also become a metaphor for how even one apparently insignificant choice, or a whole string of such tiny decisions, can have a lasting impact on a person’s life and the lives of those around them......"

The story goes on to tell how Mom decided to take an alternate road home. The trip was uneventful until we came to an unmarked fork in the road. Her decision to take the direction that appeared to be the best choice led us on a harrowing adventure through the mountains far into the night on a road that was too narrow to turn around, until we came to something that was blocking our way. From there the story continues.....

    "By stopping on that small ridge top, Mom had a chance to notice that, off to the side where the light from the headlights met the edge of the darkness, there was a wide spot on the roadside. The only one we had seen in forty miles!......" and then......

    "Mom chose to back directly into the turn-around space, instead of backing up the road far enough to allow her to drive forward into it with the benefit of the headlights. I guess she thought it was safer than trying to back up on that narrow road in the dark with drop offs on both sides, but it spawned a bit of rancor and apprehension among the ranks. You see, backup lights were not invented yet. Rather, Mom had Grandma try to show her the way with a flashlight. But in spite of their best efforts she backed over a rock that was hidden in the weeds and got the car high centered on the differential.

    Oh dang, wheels spinning but not going anywhere. Now what?....."

Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Sorry, you'll just have to wait until you have the book in your hands to find out the rest of the story....:)

HELLO MYRMIDON is filled with many such stories, as the girls share their problems and offer each other gentle counsel. In this process of guiding each other to make wise choices, they gain maturity and a new perspective on what it means to be responsible adults. They end their respective senior years, one in high school and the other in college, with much different outlooks than when they started their pen pal friendship.

The Book

In the book the younger girl starts out with a letter expressing her disdain for a teacher that had accused her of cheating, and asking the older girl for advice. Here are some excerpts from that letter:

    "Well Hello There Myrmidon!"

    "What a neat name, I love it. I looked it up at the library. It’s derived from a group of ancient Greek warriors, known for their skill in battle and their loyalty to their leaders. Today the word has come to refer to a loyal follower who will do whatever his mentor suggests. It’s a perfect choice because that’s what I want to be to you.

     I hope you’re feeling better. I’m so sorry to hear about your illness. It must make it even worse to be kept apart from everybody, all alone day after day, without being able to visit with your friends and parents and all. I know I‘d be really lonely without being able to be with my friends at school, let alone being sick too.

     Right now I’m not lonely, I’m just really mad at a wicked witch of a teacher that has ruined my life. I can’t understand how she could do that to me. It was an essay test for English class, we’re practicing creative writing this week. The teacher told us to choose our own subject, and then spend the hour writing a story about it. I couldn’t think of anything right away, so I looked around, and everyone else was writing feverishly. But I was blank.

    As I my eyes went around the room I noticed that I had a clear view of my neighbor’s paper. So I briefly glanced at it in hopes of getting an idea to write about. I certainly didn’t cheat, I would never do that. I saw what she was writing about and I suddenly got an idea for my paper. I immediately began writing. Unthinkingly I glanced at her paper a few more times, and noticed some more tidbits that helped me write mine."

The letter goes on later to say.....

    "When I finished I was satisfied that I had written a good paper, and that it was all due to my own effort of course. After all, I hadn’t copied what she wrote. I had just used her as a way to get my own ideas. The teacher collected our papers and I left happy, feeling sure that I’d aced the test and would get the "A" necessary to keep my grade point average high enough to get into UCLA.

     As the teacher read our papers, she graded my neighbor’s paper first, and then she read mine. They were right together of course because we were sitting next to each other. I thought mine was completely different, but somehow she noticed similarities in our stories and gave me a failing grade. How could she do this to me!!! I didn’t do anything wrong, and yet with that one grade she’s changed my life forever! The term wicked witch doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about her.

     What am I gonna do? I had my whole future all mapped out, and now my life is over before I even graduate from high school. How can I face my friends, after all the bragging I’ve done about this fabulous life I’ve planned? All my life I’ve dreamed of going to UCLA, and now it’s gone. How can I tell my parents? Oh Myrmidon, what can I do? I wish I could trade places with you. To be in a room all by myself with nobody to harass me sounds very good right now." "Sincerely, A"

Myrmidon begins her reply with a story of a similar experience from her own life, so that "A" can see that Myrmidon understands her plight. She continues by offering a series of questions and answers to help "A" realize her mistake. Finally Myrmidon gently suggests a solution to the problem.

This is the type of exchange that the two girls have throughout the book, helping each other over the bumps in the road that are common among girls in their age groups.


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