Magic’s Key • Author’s Notes • Chapter 1

The Park Slope apartment

There’s backstory that gets brought up eventually, and then there’s backstory that gets made up along the way but isn’t nearly relevant enough to the story to be mentioned. This falls squarely into the latter category, but I think it’s interesting anyway.

The story behind the apartment is tied up in the story of a character who also has little to no role in this story: Ryan Hayes, the children’s maternal grandfather. Born in 1951 somewhere in the Republic of Ireland, Ryan and his parents moved to the United States when he was only five years old. They settled in Park Slope, which at the time (1956) was a predominantly working-class Italian-American and Irish-American neighborhood. His parents started a corner store that was modestly successful, a store which remains in the family to the present day.

In 1968, Ryan turned seventeen and enlisted in the US Army. By his eighteenth birthday, he was on the ground in South Vietnam, where he spent the greater part of the remaining years until the US troop withdrawal at the beginning of 1973. Having survived the war, Ryan resumed working in his parents’ store, married his high school sweetheart, and, in 1975, became the proud father of twin baby girls: Kathleen and Patricia.

Patricia Hayes grew up and married Samuel Gilliam, and before they became Mama and Papa to six children, they began renting an apartment in Park Slope, the neighborhood where she had grown up, where her family still lived. The apartment itself is a 1,300-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 1.5-bath residence, the third floor of a brownstone that became a condominium.

And that, dear reader, is the story behind the Park Slope apartment and Grandpa Ryan.

The Gilliam family’s car

I’m pretty sure it didn’t make it into the book, but something I decided while writing was that the Gilliams have a 2006 Honda Pilot in the color Taffeta White. The SUV seats eight people, and they bought it not long after James was born (it came out in October 2005). Below are some pictures of that model and color car, which I used for reference.

(NB: I found these online a long time ago, and I haven’t been able to find them again, so I don’t know to whom to attribute them. If you know who should get the credit for any of these photos, please do tell me.)

Exterior of the front corner, driver’s side.

Exterior of the back corner, passenger’s side.

Interior, looking at the driver’s side dashboard from the passenger’s side.

Interior, looking in the passenger’s side back door at the middle bench.

Interior, looking in the driver’s side back door at the rear bench, with two of the three middle bench seats folded down.

Interior from the back, with the two rows of bench seats folded up.

Interior from the back, with the two rows of bench seats folded down.

The new job upstate

The family is moving because Samuel’s job moved, but what is his job? Samuel works for the aerospace company Lockheed Martin.* While the family was living in Park Slope, he worked at the location in Uniondale (just outside Hempstead), about a three-quarter-hour drive away; in the lead-up to the company’s summer-2012 5% workforce reduction, Samuel was offered a better position at the location in Liverpool (just outside Syracuse). In order to be able to live in a house with enough bedrooms for each of the children to have one, the family moves to Jack’s Reef, which is actually less than a half-hour drive from his new workplace.

*Since the story is set in real places, the characters work for real companies, but I won't name them in the books. It's not relevant to the plot, so it would just be borrowing trouble.

The car ride

The Gilliams drove from Park Slope to Jack’s Reef, leaving around 11:00 AM and arriving around 3:45 PM. Below you can see their 268-mile route (the time estimate attached refers to current traffic, not historic traffic):

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