I am sitting under the covers with my jeans on, and I am thinking about my book — the one I may just write someday.
Sici is downstairs with a hoodie pulled over her head reading a book, surrounded by piles of tissue. Lala “quiet times” in her bedroom, dancing to bedtime music, finding her cozy place on the bottom bunk with blankets tucked in to the rails to make a cave.
I am remembering how I always wanted to write. First, when I thought I would be an author and illustrator — around the time when nearly every emotion could be conveyed in picture with a set of Garfield eyes and some brows, pointing like a “v” to represent anger or arched up to indicate surprise or extreme happiness. A girl would of course have lashes, boys — never.
Then when I mentored girls and young women and saw their courage and the fierceness in their eyes and learned their love and all they were capable of, I wanted to write it all down so I could celebrate them.
Then as I walked through painful places and held little hands and meowed at cats and saw the beauty of the world from my daughters’ height, I wanted to write so I could remember.
Wherever I was in life, writing made me see the world like a writer. The poetry of movement, the strings of feeling, the color of velvet like red onions, words falling from fingers like song.
As I try to make sense of these days strung like mysterious gifts, with questions and fewer answers, I want to write and keep writing and not stop.
Behind the headboard sits an old wire basket, and in it, books and magazines in a line like slouching teenagers. They are what I choose at night when my eyes aren’t too heavy after the routine or too weary from writing, staring at a screen.
By choice, my life is filled with words. So many words.
I speak many. Hear many, see them flying through space. Like feathers during a pillow fight, leaves in a storm.
I am my mother with her stacks of reading on the bedside table, and my daughters are me, wondering how I can possibly keep all those books straight.
But these books are all so different, I explain, just as she once did. They take me forever to read this way, as they did her, switching back and forth for mood and muse.
I take my emotional, spiritual pulse, open one to a folded note or glossy dog ear or to the homemade bookmark that sticks out like a little flag. I can tell if I’ve taken my temperature correctly.
Sometimes all a girl wants to do is look at pretty pictures. Or read of hope. Or be encouraged. Or feel swept away in story. And sometimes you don’t know until you’ve cracked open.
In the basket now,
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Raising Great Kids by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Beach Music by Pat Conroy.
An African Prayer Book by Desmond Tutu.
July and October issues of Country Living.
My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone.
Sici loved The Sixty-Eight Rooms and passed it on to me, partly thinking, I’m sure, that it couldn’t take me too long to finish. (She gives the really meaty ones to her papa to read, so they can talk more immediately about twists of plot and unlikely bad guys.)
And though it is taking me ages to finish, I feel a kindred spirit between 10-year-old me and 10-year-old her when I read it. What with the magical key and the shrinking to miniature size, and traveling through time.
If I were to write a book today, it might be filled with ten-year-old girls like us. Or it might have chapter headings marking the seasons of this family and our tree outside.
Like yesterday, what Lala declared the beginning of “hardhat season.” The wind blowing, and the horse chestnuts falling with dramatic thunks — on the shed, on the swingset, nearly us — as we played a board game in the sun by the raspberries. We thought about strapping on our bike helmets for protection. Later in the afternoon, J donned a hard hat, for real. Those things hurt, building speed on their way down before meeting unsuspecting skulls.
If I were to write a book today, it might be filled with page after page of character.
Like the man with the long white beard yellowed around the top of his mouth where the oxygen tubes ran, the life tank attached like a satchel at his hip. The man who spent 9 years in the State Pen himself and said of his monthly visits, “If I weren’t the kind of man to come back here, I would be the kind of man to come back here.”
I’d write about a grandmother I’ve never met but imagine dancing across a wooden stage. And the dear one who all the kids at the elementary school called Grandma just like she’s their own because she smells like lavender and gives squishy hugs and her hands are bumpy with veins, soft like silk.
I might write about the young man with the newsboy cap, who one hundred years ago stamped the fresh cement by our house, with a date and his name, misspelling the street’s name. And there it’s etched. For a hundred years.
Who knows when the book will come, but I’ve got to believe it will.
Words moving through this life, through then and now, through pages.
Floating until they land.
I’m also linking up, as I do many Tuesdays, with the community of “Just Write,” at The Extraordinary Ordinary. Heather’s piece today is an exquisite piece of truth-telling on asking for help. Do go read it.