Wednesday, May 04, 2022

My First Mother's Day

The morning of my first Mother’s Day, something strange happened. Something that has nothing to do with motherhood -- or not exactly. 

I was sleep-deprived like any other first-time mom that morning. 

But it wasn't because of Leo, who was ten months old. Instead, the day before, I had worked obsessively on a short story in between Saturday chores. Fiction, in other words. What on earth, I thought. I was a journalist, pure and simple.

The piece – my first attempt at writing fiction since the seminal (!) story "Mrs. GoodCookies," which I wrote in childhood -- wouldn’t leave me alone; what double life was the main character hiding? (An American ex-pat, as it turns out).

While I endeavored to figure this out, a double life of my own emerged, as I contrived to find time to write as if scrambling to conceal an affair. I invented an excuse about having to drive to the office to work on a project – on Saturday, something I never did. I also wrote – in my head – while pushing my son in his stroller through the Grant Park farmer’s market, then raced to my computer once back home so I could transcribe the lines.

That night, I went to bed late (10:30 p.m.!!! no joke), still on a high from having written the story. I awoke the next morning at 4:30 a.m., unable to get back to sleep because sentences for the story were chasing me around in the dark. What was happening to me?

Spoiler alert: the story hasn't been published, beyond my Bennington thesis, and may never be ready for print.

But the experience galvanized me to make writing my primary hobby, my main vice, my eternal crutch, my singular passion, my vocation. If you want to torture me -- do you?! -- take away my writing implements (and my Italian coffee, which happen to go hand in hand -- #5amwritersclub #sometimes).

Ten days before Leo was born, I'd scribbled something on the back of an envelope while sleepless in the middle of the night. (I wrote about it briefly here for Longreads). The next night I did the same thing. Then in the hospital that warm July I brought along a journal (as the photo above attests) -- something I hadn't done since my ex-pat years in Italy.

Slowly I began making time and space for writing, especially after Mr. Leonardo Patrick began sleeping through the night.

Yet the Mother's Day of my first full year as a mother was the turning point. Writing took over my brain. And thankfully it continues to pull the levers.

For years, I was convinced becoming a mother would force me to abandon all thought of books, politics, current events – everything. I would cease to be me, I assumed, even as my Aunt Maureen said motherhood made her more flexible (turns out: she was right!).

Instead, the birth of Leo sparked the rebirth of my writing life. Far from sending the life of the mind in exile, it reunited me with creative writing. 

(I think it helps that I only have one child; there was no time for my mother to reunite with anything other than the vacuum or the dishes).

I don't live an unusual life. I certainly don't live an unusually successful life. But this one unusual happenstance changed everything.

Long had I searched for the door into the World of Writing -- the door to wanting to write all the time. I was told at age 9 that I would become a writer, for better or for worse. But how to do that? I didn't know.

With great envy did I read profiles of writers and artists, whose passion for their craft seeped out of the pages and into my jaded mind.

What I know now: they had given up everything for their work. 

And I believe that when I gave up everything to have Leo -- infertility will convince you that most of your worldly vices need to go -- the result was not only a baby (THANK GOD THANK GOD THANK GOD) but a writing life, too.

Not the writing life I dreamed of -- the one I didn't even allow myself to imagine.

To be clear, it's a writing life that so far hasn't yielded a book (I was thrilled about the short story I wrote on my first Mother's Day but I don't remember my classmates being all that thrilled with it later during at a workshop at Bennington -- my blessed destination after writing that story). No one knows my name. I don't even teach writing full-time. But I write all the time -- and it's, again, a vocation, a vacation, a trip to the spa (and to the moon), an evening out, a session with the therapist.

So on Mother's Day, I plan to do a little writing. 

Oh and HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, ladies!


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