Centered. Grounded. Connected.


great-grandfather reverend mohr
great-grandmother martha mcdonald mohr
grandmother Emily Mohr
grandfather Paul Howe
grandparents Barbara and Francis Pavlinich Moravec
parents Janis Howe and Vincent Paul Moravec
Me and older brother Joe

Coming Home

I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on June 11, 1952.  My father moved us first to Wilmington, Delaware and then to Chattanooga, Tennessee before I was of an age to develop any memories of them, a pattern that became increasingly familiar to his five children as we found ourselves uprooted and relocated every three or four years to accommodate not only his career, but also his restless nature.

My father never seemed to feel at home no matter where we lived, not even in the town of his birth outside Pittsburgh where his eight brothers and sisters had remained to raise their families.  Even there, during holiday visits, he seemed ill at ease.  He was a Catholic, the son of an immigrant steelworker, raised literally on the other side of the tracks from the woman he would marry, the privileged granddaughter of a Presbyterian minister.

I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. – Umberto Eco

In our household there were two worlds, marked by subtle but significant differences.  These differences were sometimes successfully resolved, such as when the Catholic and the Presbyterian found a meaningful compromise in the Episcopal Church or when the person raised in poverty who attended Harvard on the G.I. Bill and the person of privilege who became a psychiatric social worker agreed to impress upon their children the supreme value of a good education.

In addition to the two worlds created by my parents’ origins, there was a different world every time we moved.  Although we remained in the American Northeast, each new location offered a different environment and lifestyle. Just as we began to feel truly settled, with best friends, specific expectations and worldviews, we moved on, from a chicken farm in rural Western New York to a dead-end street on Staten Island to the gated, mansion-studded village of Tuxedo Park to the stately academic community of Princeton, New Jersey.

I, too, began to feel ill at ease no matter where I went and when it came time for me to make my own choices in life, I found myself yearning to stay in one place, to create my own roots and belong.  What I ached for was a semblance of Main Street USA, such as the hometown of my parents in Beaver, Pennsylvania.  I had become an East Coast snob, however, and so I settled in southern Vermont where I found a happy blend of cosmopolitan and small town life.  I knew it would take some time to “come home” and so it has.  I have lived here for forty years—and counting.

We are all born mad.  Some remain so. – Samuel Beckett

There are other ways of understanding the words coming home.  There is finding one’s calling in the content of one’s own being. At age nine, when a fierce blizzard and a snow day presented me with a free afternoon, I sat in front of a cozy fire and spontaneously wrote eleven poems.  I found the experience so fulfilling and so purely fun that I imagined doing nothing else for the rest of my life.  I followed my resolve with an outpour of novels, poems, short stories, 8mm films, stage performances and plays, including a musical adaptation of Wuthering Heights and a screenplay for the John Knowles novel A Separate Peace.

Having decided that writers were perfectly capable of educating themselves, I spent two years after high school squirreled away in my parents’ attic overlooking Lake Erie—yes, we had moved again—writing novels and developing alarming symptoms of agoraphobia until it occurred to me that if I valued my sanity, I would have to move on.
I attended Syracuse University, where I studied theatre and started an epistolary novel about the American Revolution. After a year, I again came to the conclusion that college was unnecessary.  On a whim I moved to Middlebury, Vermont.  After a year of washing dishes, cleaning houses and trying to turn my epistolary novel into an epic five-act play, I enrolled in Windham College in the southern part of the state.  Windham College was on the verge of bankruptcy but it had a stellar theatre department and a professional summer repertory, where I majored in acting, directing, scene design and converting sets into bonfires during wild parties at the close of each show.

With my classmate, composer Paul Dedell, I also wrote the books and lyrics for five original full-length musicals, all of which were produced, two of them in Boston, where they received excellent reviews from the Boston Globe. The second musical, Main Street USA, received the University of Michigan’s David B Marshall Musical Theatre Award.  In the meantime I had strayed into restaurant work as a means of supporting my passion and into the martial arts—tae kwon do, aikido and tai chi–as a means of dealing with my demons.

Not all those who wander are lost. – JRR Tolkien

After revising the five musicals with my younger brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec, I finished my B.A. at Smith College as a nontraditional age student.  I commuted to Smith, supported myself as the head chef at a popular steakhouse and, having told my academic advisor that college must not get in the way of my education, began work on an ambitious new novel to fulfill my degree requirements as a Sophia Smith Scholar. I graduated magna cum laude and received the English Department’s Gertrude Posner Spencer Award for achievement in fiction writing for Book One of what was evolving—unavoidably–into a trilogy.

After graduation I served as a communications coordinator in academic and nonprofit settings, writing press releases, e-newsletters, web content, student handbooks, office manuals, program materials, posters, brochures and annual reports.  At the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, I administered a graduate program in intercultural awareness and responsible global citizenship for students from over thirty countries.   While working for a nonprofit health education organization, I helped develop content and promotional materials for two programs, the federally funded Vermont Youth Suicide Prevention Project and the Warrior Connection, an organization dedicated to healing grief and loss in combat veterans.

I like to read. I need to be learning all the time. My interests include U.S. and ancient history, classical music, tennis, tai chi, swimming, wellness and nutrition, spirituality and vintage movies.

One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. – Henry Miller

I also like to consider the meaning of the words coming home.  Home is an edifice and a place on the map.  It is also the one person or the one passion that holds our attention.  Home is a powerful memory that works its way into our dreams, sleeping and awake. Home is an illusion, a journey’s end or a soft-focus spot we can’t leave behind.  Home is a planet.  It is the supreme state or supreme Being of one’s faith.  It is completion, it is Heaven, death.  It is also one of the most enduring themes of literature and I think I will always be drawn to telling stories about dreams of coming home.

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About Martha

Martha M Moravec is the author of the memoir Magnificent Obesity: My Search for Wellness, Voice and Meaning in the Second Half of Life, (Hatherleigh Press/Random House). She is also the author of two novels: an epic historical fantasy, The Secret Name of God; and a sci-fi eco-fable for young adults, The Odd Body Vanity Squad. Before committing to prose, she wrote the book and lyrics for five original full-length musicals, all of which were successfully produced in southern Vermont and Boston. Martha blogs at Mad Genius Bohemians about the mysteries of the creative life and the persistence of one's dreams. She also blogs at Magnificent Obesity about the hazards posed by anxiety, addiction, aging and agnosticism to personal growth and transformation. She can usually be found at home in Vermont working on her next seven novels, four novellas, second memoir and a sweeping revision of the five musicals. She is currently seeking further publication opportunities, a hundred more years and God.