Welcome to Come In Character, Devi. Please tell us about yourself...
Hello, everyone! My name is Devi Marconi. I was born in 1936 in Memphis, to a pious mother and a free-spirited father – a match I never understood. It was Dad – a lover of Indian culture – who named me Devi (Da-vey). When he died in World War II, my mother moved the family (including my brother, Seth, and my sister, Linda) to her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky – the land of bourbon and bluegrass.
From then on, I was a pretty miserable child – ignored by my siblings and emotionally abused by my mother. But life changed when I was thirteen, on a Thanksgiving trip to Mammoth Cave National Park.
While I longed to see the caves as my beloved father had described them, I ended up on the most boring tour imaginable. So, when I spotted a culvert beside the trail, I took my chance and escaped. At first, it was incredible – the blackest black I’d ever known – but it didn’t take long for me to become lost, hurt, and scared.
Attempting to reach the tour group, I fell down a shaft, where I would’ve died had a boy named Jesse Littleton not found me. Soon afterward, I awoke in the secret, subterranean village of Ruby Hollow. I spent six weeks down there, recuperating from my injuries, exploring the Hollow’s many intricate levels, and getting to know Jesse and the rest of the Hollowites. I learned to play the guitar, became an integral part of the community, and helped Jesse discover some underground hot springs. Though I felt at home, I eventually had to go back to my family.
Growing up, I longed to return. After high school, however, I followed my older brother down to New Orleans – for one last worldly experience before committing myself to a life underground. But, alas, I met a man named Patrick Marconi, and when I discovered that I was unexpectedly pregnant, I decided to marry him and stay in New Orleans. Though I cared for my husband, our three girls, and the charms of southern Louisiana, the Hollow was never far from my heart.
One day, I shared the legend of Ruby Hollow with my youngest daughter, Olivia. For years, she believed it to be a made-up bedtime tale... until she discovered a chest filled with love letters from Jesse. Realizing the Hollow was real, she confessed her find. Instead of being angry, though, I felt relieved.
After my estranged mother passed away, I asked Olivia to accompany me to Kentucky for the funeral. It gave me an excuse to introduce her to the Hollow. Seeing the woods above Mammoth Cave after all those years was a thrilling experience, and I knew that I had to stay. It wasn’t an easy decision: Although I knew my family would be all right without me, I was afraid of losing Olivia.
We’ve stayed in touch over the years, but it’s not the same. Of course, I’m happy that she’s found such a good man, even had children of her own, but I wish we weren’t so far apart. Still, I can’t imagine being anywhere but Ruby Hollow.
So, what’s the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make?