My cousin asked me if Miss Essig is based on a real music teacher and if her house exists. Here are the answers.
No. I did have a voice teacher named Miss Star who lived in that little green house in Old Salem on West Street (for those of you who know the area). Miss Star is not really Miss Essig, though. They’re quite different. I made Miss Essig up completely. I took her name from my family tree. Most of the names in The Star Family are family or famous Moravian names. Mr. Mueller, whom David and Jane discuss as their music theory teacher, was a real professor at Salem College and did teach me piano.
Yes, Miss Essig’s house does exist. My father built his house on a plot of land right across the street from this English Tudor and one of my best childhood friends lived in it. When we first moved in, she was standing behind the hedge watching. I didn’t even go inside, but walked across the then tar-covered street and made friends. My mother had to drag me inside later, “Don’t you want to see your new room?” They could tell I wanted to move into the English Tudor. My mother tried to make me be more appreciative of my father’s hard work to make money to build this new house, but he just laughed and said, “When I was a kid, I wanted that house, too.” He’d grown up only two blocks away from it. It’s beautiful, calling forth exclamations from people when they pass it by for the first time.
I’m told it’s changed some since my childhood days. There’s a fish pond where one branch of the driveway was. The hedge is taller now. But it will always live in my memory as it was then. My friend and I climbed the tallest evergreens on the property, played in the rose garden, and picked pears off the ground, then ran from the yellow jackets that would come buzzing out. The gang of girls had many a sleep-over. We played the grand piano in the living room and explored the attic.
She told me there was a hidden staircase in the walk-in closet in her parents’ bedroom. I don’t know if it’s true, because she wouldn’t let me look. That imaginary (or not) staircase is now an intricate part of the mystery.
There is no church in the neighborhood, but the Sisters’ House does exist. It’s a big brick mansion overlooking Washington Park. One of the other large houses does exist, but not in the place I put it. The fourth house I made up completely.
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