It really isn’t because I’m reading Claire Dederer’s latest memoir, Love and Trouble, but I must admit, she’s gotten me thinking. About how I wished I wrote with her daring pen. About all those crazy-ass years when I was running straight into the black, and these slightly more stable years, when some of that crazy is boomeranging back. But it isn’t totally that either, it’s my job and the demands that are clear insanity but you can’t actually admit to it because it’s your job after all and you need to keep it a few more years; it’s the guy in the White House who I can’t bring myself to call president or give his title a capital letter but still, you know he’s there and the whole world is acting like he didn’t in fact steal the election but somehow might be qualified even though he’s the very definition of shit show; it’s about summer’s abrupt end and my love of drinking a tad too much rosé, okay my addiction that hasn’t stopped even though I know better and one should stop drinking Summer’s Water; but ultimately it’s about racing and racing every day ahead of just about every deadline so that I can feel like I have it together but know I don’t. Yeah, today, it’s all of that.
There is, generally, within a disaster, some small yet distant point of light along the horizon. Katrina, Irene, and now Harvey have that in common: the disaster and the light. Although my Vermont school community is not directly affected this time, their personal memory of Irene has spurred empathy and compassion for the residents in Texas hit hard by Harvey. On our first day of school there were whispers which grew to serious conversation until an unified plan took shape to support the relief efforts. As we are hundreds of miles away, raising cash seemed best.
As June melts into July, and we settle into yet another new home, there is plenty to fracture and divide our time from our desire. There is unpacking and all those decisions of where to hang this mother’s portrait or that Bowie painting. There are boxes of cleaning supplies that look too much like work, so I vote to banish them to the cellar while she might actually want to use them. There’s me wandering on the front lawn in my bathrobe to catch the early light and getting sidetracked by raindrops on broad leaves instead of finding the lid to the pot still stuck in a box somewhere. Me wandering. Finally, I’d add. Stop the lists of to-do’s for a single moment and feel dewy grass.
For ever I’ve been writing as ideas come crashing in. During certain blocks of time these writings took on titled forms, like poem or novel or stage play. No matter the name, these pieces wholly occupied my time and sense of self, appearing like hidden treasures, each a gift on the page. Unlike the wonder and joy I felt while writing, however, forays into publishing were as consuming as quick-sand or as frustrating as a sand-trap: regardless the simile, this aspect of my writing process did not bear fruit. An occasional academic or periodical publication but not with the fanfare in which I suspected a titled “writer” would receive. A person with piles of papers covered with words stored in boxes. Is there a title for that kind of writer? Certainly there have been times when writing did not appear like fairy dust. In fact, I had a particularly dry stretch. After working with an unhelpful agent for a disappointing year, I lost interest and direction, and for a while I stopped writing: for months actually. But then, (and how wonderfully lucky I am), my dearest one suggested I consider blogging. What do I have to say? I responded immediately. I doubt I got more than her one eyebrow lifted before I broke into laughter. Plenty, yes, I’ve had plenty to say, and apparently continue to say, for there is no shortage of ideas springing forth for my weekly posts. This is how it was, during a distant dreary November, now six years ago, that Nine Cent Girl came to me. I’m so glad she did.
There is more to a person’s legacy than diamonds and pearls, although seeing those valued trinkets passed down the generations does warm my heart. My mother’s real legacy is her reminder to stand back up after one has fallen into tough years, and not with her words, but with her actions through all those tough years. It is easier to reminisce about carefree summers on the beach or raising a hopeful glass on New Year’s Eve than admit to harsher seasons, but recalling how my mother navigated with 4 teenagers plus 2 younger children, a husband who was intently searching for a way out of his own angst, all amidst the turbulent 1960’s, those years show what tough really looks like. We didn’t have an easy time of it. She most of all. Family photos reveal more about the unseen than anticipated. But never did she stop believing that we would make it through to a sunnier day.