About MeContact me
I grew up in Devon, Pennsylvania, daughter of Millie and Pat Antrilli, older sister to Patti, in a square white house trimmed in red shutters with a half moon front door.
It was the 1950's. Drive-in movies, Hula Hoop Tournaments, and the first TV. World War II had ended, the Korean War was winding down, and the Cold War had become a sad reality.
My Mom didn't drive and my Dad worked long hours. So the only way I could get around was on my bike. But I didn't mind. Every place I wanted to be was a bike ride away. The stream with the tadpoles, Conrad's Market for ice cream, Devon Elementary School and my friends on the playground, and of course the local library where I filled my bike's basket to the brim with stacks of books.
As early as I can remember, I have always loved to read. Maybe that's why I became such a daydreamer. And my dreams had a curious way of spinning themselves into stories. I told many of my stories to Patti and neighbor friends as we sat together and picnicked on a large rock under the shade of a weeping willow tree. Actually the rock was more like a boulder and shaped like a tortoise shell, so we named it Turtle Rock. I was a practiced storyteller by the time we outgrew Turtle Rock and had written down many of my stories.
My Dad had an amazing way with plants and flowers, and he worked on a large estate raising orchids, cross breeding roses, and growing vegetables from seeds. Up to about sixth grade, I tagged along with my Dad to work when the Jacksons left for their summer home in Maine. I had such fun then, flying down the twisty driveway in life-size toy cars, swimming in the heated pool, and devouring chunks of Cook's gooey chocolate cake. And in return I wrote letters to Mrs. Jackson with estate updates from my Dad. But after one or two letters Mrs. Jackson wrote back asking for more details. The color of the newest orchids blooming in the greenhouse. The smell of the tea roses growing like a hedge along the driveway. The height of the tallest snap pea vine twirling up the pole. My letters soon became short stories.
When I first noticed boys and wanted them to notice me I read a story about a young girl in search of her one true love. A witch, withered and haggard, held the answer. “Sit under a holly tree and comb your hair at the stroke of midnight. The first boy you see the day after will be the one you seek.” As predicted, the girl met the boy of her dreams, and they lived happily ever after.
I discovered that a well-crafted book, no matter how unbelievable, could draw you into the story and convince you that anything was possible. And how perfect was it that I had a huge holly tree growing against my house. If I scrunched down slightly I could just fit under the lowest bough. At midnight, comb in hand, I wiggled my way carefully under the tree, and followed the witch's instructions. But the next morning, my hopes were dashed when I opened the door to our milkman, Mr. Miller. After that I included family and friends in all my stories.
In Junior High, my writing took on a more serious tone. It was the 1960s, and the threat of a major nuclear attack was on everyone's minds. My neighbor had even built a backyard bomb shelter for his family. I entered a Peace Essay Contest. I wrote what I felt and won second prize. I traveled to the local High School with the two other winners to read our essays during a General Assembly. But as I stood behind the podium looking out over the sea of older faces—some friendly-looking, others not so much—I felt my knees turn to jelly. My hands shook so badly that I couldn't hold onto my note cards. I wanted to disappear. But somehow, when I remembered the importance of my message, something took over, and the words came back to me.
In High School, I continued my story writing, and my guidance counselor suggested I go into teaching where I would always have a captive audience. It was the perfect direction for me.
In college I majored in elementary education and took my first writing course. I read children's prizewinning books, studied writing styles, and discovered my love of research. I also met the man I would marry. Norbert John Walsh. Norbie for short.
After graduation, I taught in a small Catholic school and planned our wedding. But Norbie was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. I wrote him a letter for every day that he was away. And even though I was afraid that he wouldn't return, he never read worry in my stories. We were lucky. Norbie came home safe and sound with my packet of letters, and I tucked them away in my memory box.
I now live with my husband and our Cairn terrier, Sammie Sea Dog, in Mantoloking, New Jersey and Key Largo, Florida. Our boys are grown and have moved away. But I have a new audience for my stories. Our grandbaby, Norbie III, or N3, as we sometimes call him. And I can tell already that N3 is a daydreamer at heart.
Background photograph taken by Chris Walsh