But that morning, I felt something sweeter than being needed. My little girl was taking wing and exploring her way through a world of images and words, independent of me.
I am more aware than I’ve ever been of patterns, patterns that have stunted growth and shored up strength, patterns that have contributed to my identities as daughter, woman, and now, mother.
I wrote to reassure myself that my kids would be okay. That I could be less than perfect, and that they would still be okay. I wrote to reassure myself that it was okay not to love every minute of mothering. In retrospect, I wish I had put effort into finding and respecting the line where my story ends and my children’s begin.
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.
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