Years ago, an American couple living in the country of Panama brought home a baby girl to live with them and her older sister in a little town on the edge of the rain forest. The baby girl never cried, and indeed, if she was found awake in the middle of the night with a wet diaper on and a thundering rain shower cascading around her in her un-air-conditioned, built-on-stilts house, chances are she was just laughing the night away.
Melissa Ward, as she was known back then, was an adventurous soul from the get-go. She loved playing out in the jungle, climbing trees, and running to capture butterflies and other interesting insects with her butterfly net. She and her sister Debbie would make picnic lunches, haul them up to the tops of the trees with ropes, and settle back among the branches to read the best kids’ books they could get their hands on. When they would get bored with that, they would pick ripe fruit and throw the seeds down on unsuspecting passersby.
Melissa visited old people, relatives, neighbors, and so forth and begged for them to tell her stories. Always, always she loved stories. Some of the stories were true, some were embellished truths, and some were tall tales. It didn’t matter: she loved them all.
Melissa was a bit of an oddity at her elementary school. She didn’t excel in sports. Instead, she loved writing stories, plays, poetry, and even book reports. When other kids moaned and groaned about it, Melissa loved it when her teacher gave her writing assignments or topics to speak on.
Melissa’s mother was all about teaching her daughters proper etiquette, how to maneuver through social engagements, and how to behave at a tea or in church. It was through her tutelage that Melissa learned how to behave herself and not bring embarrassment on friends and family. Well, at least a minimum. Melissa’s father was all about teaching the sisters how to find clean water in the jungle, which birds make the smallest nests, how to make a sun-hat from a palmetto frond, and how to clean, gut, and fry fresh fish. It was on these secret forays into the jungle that Melissa’s sense of adventure was sharpened and her appetite for thrills was whetted.
When Melissa was in elementary school, she was a poor student, other than writing, and didn’t want to waste a single minute reading. Her sister, however, sat on her and read aloud until Melissa caught the “reading bug” and agreed to give it a try. To this day she loves good books of all kinds and reads as often as time allows. Some of her favorite books are:
If she’s not reading, Melissa is probably working on a new novel, making bead jewelry, learning new piano music, shopping with friends, or surfing on the web.