Dancing with Fireflies is a story of our family living in the darkness and intermittent light of my mother’s paranoid schizophrenia. It is about three brothers dancing to the hide-and-seek choreography demanded by my mother’s voices in our own search for safety. A telling of my father’s stubborn determination to keep his family together, in his attempt to fix what cannot be fixed, and the near-tragedy prevented by his three young boys when he reached his breaking point. My mother’s own history is woven into this memoir, shedding some light and understanding of the darkness into which she was so often called; a frightening place she never asked to visit. Despite the veil of mental illness which surrounded my family, we had our moments of laughter and gratitude for those treasured moments when the sunshine, however briefly, illuminated us. We shared adventures that all families experience. The reader need not be a survivor of mental illness to appreciate our story. Most of all, this is a story of healing between me, the oldest son, and my mother, many years after her death.
“Cousin Joe” of my memoir is more than a beloved character from my childhood. Joseph Anthony Smith is an artist whose work reflects his gifts of imagination and vision. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute, where he won the Dean’s Medal. He is Professor of Fine Art at that prestigious school, where he teaches drawing, painting, figure sculpture, anatomy, and a course he created in symbolic imagery and visual problem solving.
He has presented his art in many individual exhibitions. His work is placed in the collections of various museums in this country and overseas, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Library of Congress.
Joe has illustrated 25 children’s books and authored one of his own. He has been a cover artist for Time, as well as editorial artist for Time, Harper’s, and Newsweek. His sketches of the Watergate Trial are well-known, having been the courtroom illustrator for Newsweek magazine.
My cousin loved and accepted my mother and, at a very young age, understood her. His compassion for all of my family is reflected by this magical cover, in which he so creatively captured the elusive light we danced through in search of my mother.