That sentence I wrote, to announce the end, said it all. Yes, it was surrounded by other words–accomplishments, family lineage, hobbies–but that one sentence was truest. I’d never written anything better, never will.
During the two-and-a-half years before I began exploring Franklin’s life and work, I’d been focusing on loss—loss of sleep, loss of autonomy, and, above all, loss of identity. Franklin suddenly reframed the job of mothering as, instead, one that was—and still is—giving me specific, transferable skills.
I’d read all the pregnancy books, humorous and practical alike, but none of them really prepared me for that moment. Instead, it was the desolate landscapes of Cormac McCarthy’s fiction—which I hadn’t read before my pregnancy, and haven’t enjoyed since—that gave me a framework for my predicament.
Parenting a child with early Alzheimer’s-like symptoms leaves little energy for anything else, I discovered, so I shifted my priority from recreating what had been, to nurturing what could be. I focused on being a mom while the rusty bucket mossed-over.
My plays are colored by motherhood. My poetry, a fairly recent undertaking, comes back to themes of mothering again and again. My two girls were with me throughout the entirety of my PhD (which I regularly referred to as my third child). And my dissertation, like most things I produce, has an underlying current of not being precisely one thing or another.
Rather than force a return to the poems I was working on, I needed to write differently. I needed to intentionally mark the rupture between past and present, before becoming a mother, and after. I needed to explore another genre altogether.
The travelers were much younger than I am now, from different countries, and different time periods, but they had all arrived at a turning point in their lives and needed to answer the perennial question of what to do next.
I used to be precious about my writing time. Everything needed to be just so before I could start laying one word after another. My sacred place had to be perfect: my office, espresso, a little Miles Davis, and no interruptions. What a crock of shit.
That pretentious girl, who rolled her eyes at her mom’s Danielle Steele novels, would have scoffed at the mom I’ve become, engaged in a heated debate with my kids about whether the Captain Underpants movie was better than the book series.
I felt like I couldn’t be the writer I wanted to be. And I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be. So what was I? Nothing of any value. A package of shattered tile.
What does it mean when a female writer cannot share and describe what could very likely have been one of the most transformative experiences of her life?
Literary Reflections Archives