Thursday, May 3, 2012

Catching Up with an Essay

I’ve been on the road for five days. First, I went to Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Md. It was fabulous catching up with some of my blog sisters in person! Then on to Pittsburgh for the Festival of Mystery. So I’ve decided to give myself a bit of a break. So while I'm catching up on things, here's an essay for you that I wrote many years ago when I was writing a slice-of-life parenting column for a local newspaper. You can find almost all of those columns compiled into an e-book HONEY, I’M SORRY I KILLED YOUR AQUASAURS (AND OTHER SHORT ESSAYS ON THE PARENTING LIFE). Enjoy!

An old colleague recently showed up in my life again.
Actually, she used to be my boss. She sent an email, saying she hopes my life is treating me well. She asked me what my life is like now.
It gave me pause. How to explain to this woman that helped shape me professionally what my life is actually like now—full of the busy-ness of motherhood, with only spurts of writing and creativity?
I rarely have times to read poetry, let alone write it, I tell her. What I don’t tell her is that sometimes I long for that breathing space in which the luxury of words and image visit me. But most times, I don’t think about it. And if I do, I shrug and finish loading the dishwasher, or picking up toys, or folding clothes.
Still, there is this book I wrote, I let her know. I am proud of it and even though it’s a cookbook, I think you can see the poetry there between the gravy and the mashed potatoes.
I don’t miss writing about math education, I say, or life insurance, or community associations. But I do miss the challenge of writing every day and making it fresh and interesting—one more time. I don’t miss the nasty editors on a power trip, but I do miss the kind of editor she was—fair, light-handed, patient and teaching. A good editor is a writer’s best advocate—the one who challenges you to take your work to the next level, shepherds you and your writing without getting mean.
It’s hard to imagine you as a mother, she says. Still, here I am, a mother.
And it’s nothing like I thought it would be back when I used to dream of having children and moving to the country. Waynesboro is turning out not to be the country, and parenting is full of surprises.
One of those surprising things is that babies become little people. Oh, I knew that—intellectually, we all do. Still, often when we think of becoming parents, it’s the baby we crave, not the sassy nine-year-old who thinks she’s smarter than you most of the time.
But still, there are moments when my girls snuggle up to me all giggles and warmth, the moments when a spark I lit in one of them by something we say or do, times in the spaces that we share that I know it will be OK. We will survive—us as their parents, them as our children; we are finding our way, albeit stumbling and bumbling.
Me, as a mother, I want to tell my friend, is very much me as a writer—still learning even after years of trying. Many people have opinions on both parenting and writing. What I’ve come to learn is that the best of both are only found by looking deep within myself.

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