Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I read my writing in front of a live audience two nights ago.  Thrilling.  And terrifying.  Left me wanting more.  More chances to read my words, but also more chances to hear the words of other writers read aloud.  We sit hunched over our desks, fingers racing or limping over the page and we fill hard drives and notebooks and binders with words but rarely do we speak these words aloud.  

The piece I read was a section from my memoir.  It is the story of how when my son was born, my father was dying from Alzheimer's.  It is the part of the book that always chokes me up no matter how many times I have gone over it.  I was worried that there, on the stage, with the bright lights in my eyes, I would burst into tears.  I read it over and over to myself, trying to sap the emotion through repetition.  

About an hour  before the show, after I'd made dinner for the kids, changed out of my day jeans (a couple days in, baggy knees, some dried yogurt from Sadie's breakfast keeping company with a smudge of turmeric from my lunch of lentils and rice) and into night jeans (clean.)   To my daughter's delight, I put on lipstick.  At the computer, I increased the font size on my pages before printing my selection and because Theo is a six-year old boy and because his ears are tuned to the sound of the computer waking itself from sleep, he appeared at my side.

"What are you reading?" He asked.  Instead of waiting for an answer, he started to read the first couple of lines.  He's reading, but still slowly, his mouth feeling the words as he sounds them out.  

"What's it about," he asked.

"It's about you," I said.

"Read it to me."

And so I did.  I read three pages about how his birth coincided with my Dad's death.  I read about contractions and the feel of a newborn head between my legs.  I read about my realization at age nine that my father would not be with me forever.  As I read, Theo leaned against me, resting his cheek against mine.  When I finished, he smiled his happiest smile.  It's the one that makes his dimples sink in all the way up to his eyebrows.  It's the one that shows both rows of tiny baby teeth all the way back to the molars.  

Sadie had joined us somewhere around the middle and she lifted her head off my shoulder to take in her brother's wide grin.  Then she looked up at me.
"Where's my story?" She asked.  

"I haven't written it yet," I replied.

"We could help you write it," Theo said.

I assured him that they were helping.  Every day they help me write even if I don't write a word. Everything that they give me is accumulating just the way my written words pile up on the hard drive and the notebook and the scrap paper in the glovebox.  At some point, what goes in has got to come out.  

There is a book somewhere for Sadie but because I haven't written it yet and I don't want to forget here are a few gems from the last couple of days.

When I bought her a new skirt, she cut the tags out and pulled it on, turning to inspect herself from all angles in the mirror.  When she was satisfied, she gave her hair a little pat and clapped her hands joyfully.  Then she took a bow as though the applause had come from someone else.  

Yesterday, when I arrived home, she was lounging on the stairs wearing silky pink pajamas.  "This," she said giddily, holding up a pink stuffed rabbit with a big turquoise silk flower clipped to its head, "used to be just a bunny.  But now, he's Hawaiian bunny!"

Later she wondered if I'd met the "newest member of our family."  She pulled me upstairs to her room and there on the tray of the doll's highchair was a small plastic bowl filled with dirt and leaves.  "He's having his dinner," she said.  "But he really wants to meet you."  She picked up the bowl and held it under my nose and announced "It's a roly-poly!  His name is Junior Mint."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

After an extended silence, I feel as though I ought to have something momentous to say, but all I can think about is dust.  We've been in the new house long enough for dust to accumulate.  It's our dust and not the dust of the previous owners which I swept away along with crumpled newspaper and frayed bits of brown cardboard packing boxes.  Though their Sunday New York Times subscription remains, their dust is long gone.  Our dust is clouding the wooden mantle in the living room and mixes with bits of crushed corn puffs along the edges of the dining room rug.  Our dust sparkles with glitter fallen from pre-school art projects.  Our dust becomes tangled with a strand of my mother's silver hair and takes on new life as a dust bunny.  Our dust is made of us: skin, hair, cereal, sparkle, the whole shebang, and it filters into the cracks of this house and makes it ours.  

Perhaps I am rationalizing my inability to "dust."  Isn't it funny that the verb that means to remove dust is the same as dust?  Makes it seem like dust has the upper hand.