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  • C. Ayla Joyce Matheson

How I Discovered the Perfect Title and Image for My Book.

The title of my book, My Time, went through three different evolutions before this title was chosen. The first title, which I’d seen as the title for many, many years, was “Hell Hole or Holy Hell”. Now I see this was a good working title as I swam through the murky ocean of emotions, long trapped, now being remembered to me. This title felt right because I was asking to discover the sacredness in the profanity of my life experiences.

I lived within a family system that had many double standards. I found this confusing as a child. We were a missionary family in the Episcopal church. The first home I remember was in Costa Rica where we lived in the rural countryside. Sugarcane fields flanked our ‘casita’ (house) on one side and a coffee bean field was on the other! The smells which traveled through the air was Mother Earth’s perfume awakening and causing the hypersensitization of my olfactory system. This in turn stimulated my super sensitive oratory system! My family lived here for three blissful years. We moved when I was six years old.

When I was six we moved away from my paradise and for the next year, my family bounced around like a basketball on ‘furlough’. This meant my family was moved twenty two times during the year. Yes you read that right! But that wasn’t the worst of it…my mama was pregnant during this year, trying to care for three small children 8½, 6, 3, and finally a baby.

The post that was found and deemed appropriate for our family was in the South Bronx, right smack into the middle of one of the most impoverished parts of the city, and considered the most violent in our nation. The year was 1962. It was a hell hole. I’ll never forget what it felt like when our green Volkswagen station wagon drove through tall, steel gates that were spiked at the tips. Tall, crowded, grimy buildings replaced the majestic volcano Erasu, which was revered as a guardian in our village. Rotting garbage and sun-baked urine permeated my nose and seeped into my skin. I felt incredibly sad, missing the environment which had held me, and had intoxicated my being!

What would this new life bring? How would I adapt to my new home, behind these gates, I wondered.

People swarmed our car, yelling, squealing, squeezing, and shoving one another, trying to get a glimpse of us, as we drove slowly through the gates. The children were in mass, it seemed, while young girls, with babies on their hips, hung back allowing the other kids to be the first to surround us, when finally our car stopped.

The play yard was a large dirt area, to my right. Up on a knoll stood a beautiful stone and wooden church, with bright red doors, hinged with huge, old wrought iron hinges. St. Ann’s was beautiful and majestic. I guess the church replaced the powerful presence of the volcano! Was this the beginning for me where Father, God of the heaven’s, father of Jesus who died for me, suppressed the Mother of Creation of which I am a part of?

Our new home was above the church offices, which were connected to the church in an L shaped structure. Walking from the parking lot to our new home, took us past a large humped area, which was a very old graveyard. It gave me the willies as I walked past, sensing other world spirits, present.

Once inside this beautiful building a set of stairs loomed up in front of me. To the right was the main office. The stairway was unlit, with only a light at the top. There were a lot of stairs. Our apartment was at the top, to the right. To the left, through a darkened alcove, was a huge room, once a library, now, a clothing drop off and pick up location, for our community.

Inside our apartment, the first door on the left, was my bedroom, then my sister and baby brother’s bedroom, kitchen was on the right, with a pass through, into the living room. Straightforward was the bathroom. To the right as I moved down the short hallway, the living room was sunny and big. It had three, huge Palladium windows, which overlooked the graveyard. My older brother's bedroom was on the front side, next to the living room. He had a big, wide window in his room which had an overhang outside, covering the entrance into the parish house. This was important I later discovered as he would sneak out using this ledge, and meet his friends.

And so it was this strange, new life began! Shortly after we arrived, mom chose to put herself into a mental health hospital. She left me to care for my dad, while dad chose me to stay and replace my mama, emotionally, not willing to be alone. My 6 month old baby brother and 2 ½ year old sister went to live in Connecticut with my grandparents. My older brother by 2 ½ years went to St. John’s of the Divine, as a choir boy and was a boarding student. I was chosen to care for my daddy, when I was just a little girl. Of course I thought I was ‘special’ because I was chosen by daddy and believing this eased my broken and sad heart.

As a gift before mommy went away, she had promised to take me shopping for a babydoll I wanted, badly! So, on this special day we hiked off to the store where I had seen Thumbelina, the soft babydoll.

When we got there, mom surprised me by grabbing this 3’ tall BrideDoll off the shelf. I thought she was hideous and she scared me with her bright red lipstick, veil, and her lacy dress. I wanted Thumbelina not this ugly doll.

So the second title born as an inspiration was, The Bride Doll. Realizing I needed to own this doll, because she was the one I’ve transformed into becoming my authentic self, I bought a 1962 vintage bride doll Betty, in order to photograph her for the book cover. I contacted a friend to see if she would accompany me to an old graveyard, down the road from her home.

It was a great cover for a murder mystery! When I sent out the mock up for the book cover the responses I got back frightened me! Ohhhh that’s not the feeling I desire for potential readers.The comments were just that, “if I didn’t know you and some of your story, I’d think it was a murder mystery!” Other comments were similar.

‘My Time’ was the painting I created as I was grieving my fathers death, in January 2015. Ours was a very complicated father/daughter relationship full of double standards and double talk. But my beautiful, gentle spirited father, whose ignorance was well-intended, finally in the end, owned his role in my childhood traumas.

This choice to use my painting for the cover and the title of the painting as the title of my memoir felt right. It is my time to bring my loving service to the world!

When folks see my cover now there's an energy of excitement and enthusiasm! That’s why I chose ‘My Time’ to invite my reader into this beautiful, soulful life I’ve created from the ashes of destruction into a vibrant life of unconditional love for myself and being present in service to love!

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