I am a mother and a writer, in that order. I came to motherhood early and writing, late, but this isn’t strictly true. I’ve written down butterfly thoughts since my earliest days, only then I didn’t give it a label. Offered by my parents the luxury of boredom, I clutched childhood journals, scribbling terrible poetry and embryonic stories without paying much attention. It seemed the natural thing to do, like fishing when one is at the lake.
‘Mother’ is a title I’ve worn since I graduated from college, giving birth to my oldest son shortly thereafter. My young husband and I weren’t sure what life held for us in those beginning years but we knew it included a baby. Two more children followed in rapid succession, filling my heart and our apartment. I knew that I wanted to be present for my little ones in those wide-eyed years, to sing to them old songs, to read aloud books I’d loved as friends. For years I hollowed out afternoons of diapers and blocks, seasons of nothing and everything, and I did not regret them.
But time catches us when we’re not paying attention. Without much warning my children grew older. Their voices are changing now, and they read without me. I don’t know how to feel when I find that I’m OK with this. To my surprise, the sweet space their need used to occupy has not remained a vacuum in my psyche. Instead I find that the urge to write, the compulsion to net my thoughts like silver minnows, has reawakened, this time in earnest.
I am afraid and emboldened by this realization. I write tentatively today, stringing one word after another with shaking fingers, sure that I am on a fool’s errand. The next morning, I am on fire. The world needs my words, I can feel it, and I am generous with them.
There is no space for the lukewarm in my word world, and when I am in it, I am young again. The responsibilities of my grown-up life are there just beyond my bedroom door, but for an hour I let them stand because I am going back in time to a place of skinned knees and knowing things.
I am unnerved by this punishing love of the written word. It is not folksy and warm. It does not smell of babies and grass stains. It is demanding, finding its way into the privacy of my dreams. Still, I find that I can’t imagine life without this wave at my back, these exquisite contractions forcing me to create. They have bubbled up through the skin of my consciousness and they have no intention of leaving.
I will always be a mother and I am full of gratitude for this. I see my children blooming and my heart swells. I have spent my years well, I hope. But in the sacred quiet of early morning I wake and begin sorting crowds of words into orderly lines, scolding, nudging. My heart squeezes with longing, making me catch my breath, and I know then that I will always be a writer, too.