Earlier this month we published Minutes Are Just Seconds Aren't Minutes by Wendy C. Ortiz.
Inspired by that unusual account of the impact of a baby on a mother's time to write, we posed this writing prompt:
Do you relate to that experience of craving time alone to write, only to find your thoughts continually propelled back to the wellbeing of your child as soon as you're finally granted some sacred space? How do you navigate your way between those divided worlds - of time devoted to writing and spent caring for a child - and how do you assuage the dizzying sense that time seems to either fly or stand still?
Literary Reflections is pleased to present this month's featured writing prompt response, written by Maria Smilios:
I write in the dark on my bed, among the pillows and bed sheets and my husband sleeping. It’s late, too late, and in a few hours my 2-year-old daughter will be awake screaming “Mommy, mommy, I want to get up.” I know when she wakes I will regret this decision to stay awake. I know I should stop and sleep, but I can’t. It’s the words, they need to go somewhere, they need to find order and meaning, a place to stay still; otherwise they will taunt me. I give myself another hour, 60 more minutes to create a cohesive narrative, to string the words together so they are not broken, so they move in harmony, but I am weary, drained, depleted from another day spent in a seemingly endless repetition of negatives, “No, do not put the Lego in the fish tank….no, keep your hands to yourself…no, that’s not how you ask,” that I’m now choking on the words.
I watch the blinking cursor: 53 more minutes to write what I anticipated writing yesterday afternoon, while she was napping. But yesterday she decided not to nap; she wanted to scream instead.
I wept while she screamed. I wept for the self that I renounced that snowy January night my daughter was born; the self that could toil for hours over a word, the self that did not write on beds or toilet seats or kitchen counters, the self that would never have imagined closing her ears to her beautiful screaming daughter.
36 more minutes… time is cruel I think. I thought that this morning when I looked at my tired and aging face, while my daughter stood behind me poking at my sagging thighs and laughing.
We laughed together at the park yesterday morning; we laughed on the swings under a brilliant sky; she grabbed my neck and screamed higher and higher. We laughed, before we both cried. How things change in the quickness of a minute… 21 more minutes.
It took 21 minutes for me to get a representative to restore my phone service that was disconnected because I forgot to pay the bill. The bill that I used to scribble some non-sequiturs while I was chopping carrots and celery; the same bill my daughter found and decorated with fire truck and bunny stickers.
Disconnected. Reconnected. Everyday.
I stand outside myself, floating on the periphery of a landscape that is formless and formed with a child that is changed and changing, a child who already breaks me, and then with a whisper and a nod makes me whole again.
9 minutes… 630 seconds
This is how it is now. Everyday.
Time shatters, the words shatter, and somewhere between watching her digging in the dirt and telling her not to throw chalk off the balcony, the words will slip into place, and for a fleeting moment, it will all make sense, until tomorrow when I sit down to write and count the minutes once again.
Maria Smilios' work has appeared online in Queens Mamas and Feminsting. She lives in New York with her husband, 2-year old daughter, and an aquarium full of fish. Please visit her at Kissing the Mad Hatter Goodbye.
A new Literary Reflections writing prompt is published the first weekend of every month. Responses are accepted until the 15th, and we promise to comment shortly after that. Look for it - we'd love to hear from you.