Monday, September 21, 2009

Blink And You'll Miss It: Sophie's Feeling Sappy

by Sophie Littlefield


I let this week's theme roll around in my head for a while, and when I finally went to pluck it out and work on it - much like Dumbledore lifting memories from the penseive - I found that it brought tears to my eyes.

Time is never so precious as when your firstborn is about to turn seventeen. You stand there at his side, looking at adulthood on a shore that is not very distant after all, and you wonder what the hell happened. You remember with perfect muscle-memory, not one bit diminished by middle age, what it felt like to hold him at six weeks in his terry-cloth carry him over your shoulder from a play-date he didn't want to leave when he was five years old. You remember how he confessed to stealing candy at the age of seven and to a first kiss much later. All of it is condensed into an impossibly brief span in your mind and the prayer on your lips is gratitude for all the time he's spent with you in the past and for the man he is fast becoming.

When my boy was six and his sister was four, I paid a sitter forty dollars every other Friday to come and watch my kids for the afternoon. As I drove away from my house I was practically giddy with excitement at the chance to be on my own for a few hours. Sometimes I got my nails done. Once or twice I went to a movie. More often than not I went to Home Depot or Kohl's or even Costco, but being alone in my own head felt so delicious I might as well have been in Paris. Every time, though, when I returned home I was more than ready to see my kids again.

Two years and three months ago, after finally realizing the kids didn't need me nearly as much as they used to, I got serious about writing. It was practically an overnight decision. I imagine I felt a little like Mr. Hummer (or whatever the fellow's called who used to make those dreadful automobiles) must have felt like, looking out over the auto factory one day, realizing demand had shrunk dramatically. I don't know if he said to himself "Hmmm, I seem to have a lot more time on my hands all of a sudden; best get cracking on a novel."

I fear that he might not have. Perhaps he is playing golf. His loss.

I love writing. I don't love it more than taking care of my children, but that was a different time and I had a different role. When you are needed by a child, your needs are sublimated, your satisfaction is a product of their happiness. It's not a bad thing - it's a glorious thing, a privilege.

On the more-rare occasions that my children need me now, I go gladly and it's all the sweeter because I know how fleeting those moments are.

Sometimes my daughter likes me to blow-dry her hair. Or listen to her latest Garage Band masterpiece. Or even just talk about her day.

And my son needs me to take him to get lacrosse stick tape. Or show him where we keep the trash bags (though they're in the same place they were the last time he asked. Or even just talk about his day.

I might be at a critical place in my story. I may have just figured out a scene after several grueling hours of staring at a blank screen. I might have a deadline tomorrow or a blog post due. But it doesn't matter: when they call me I go.

Because they won't always be there to ask. Someday they'll be gone, living elsewhere with distractions and obligations of their own, and my house will be quiet and empty...really conducive to getting lots done. I'll be more prolific, I won't lose my train of thought or forget where I was in my story and what my characters were doing.

I'm sure it will be good for my career. The books will benefit.

And I'll miss these times.

I don't regret a single moment I've spent with my kids. I was lucky to be able to spend so much of their childhood with them. My days are exciting now, filled with galleys to correct and manuscripts to finish and books to sign, but the days of sippy cups and silly songs and sailing through the house in a laundry basket ship were among the sweetest moments of my life.

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Speaking of sweet moments: the Pens gathered over the weekend for a pot luck. There's nothing better than getting together with my dear writing friends to talk and laugh and drink wine and plan our next ventures!


Rachael Herron said...

Oh, sweet Pens. And this mushy post just made me go all gooey inside. The way your boy and girl both played with your hair yesterday made me miss my little mama in a really good, hard way. I love watching the love you have for them. Okay. Misting up makes my head hurt. I'm gonna go be tough somewhere else now.

Unknown said...

Oh you made me cry.... :)

ps-Rach your hair exactly matches the background of the site on my computer. :) Thanks to all for a lovely night. Lynn and Julie--we missed you!!

Tom Neely said... me teary too.

I think I need to go snuggle with my two little guys now (if I can catch them)

Unknown said...

Couldn't post yesterday, because you made me cry! And I don't even have kids.

My mom died when I was 15--somehow this reminded me of her like crazy. You know if your mom loves you, even if she sometimes wants to throttle you, and even if she's no longer on this plane.

Here's to writing, and love, and the odd games time plays with them both ;)

Sophie Littlefield said...

wow i didn't mean to make everyone cry :)


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