The real spirit of Christmas
Taking care of myself: eating, sleeping, remembering to take necessary meds
Once I met a woman in Texas who wrote and illustrated picture books. As she and I were talking, a couple of my little girls came up to me. Hung on my legs. Pulled at my dress (Yes, it was one of those unusual times when I was wearing a dress. I wore one at the PEN award, too. But not when I gave my graduation reading or lecture.).
[IMAGINE PIC OF ME IN A DRESS HERE. I COULDN’T GET IT TO LOAD. DRESS IS BLACK. I’M SMILING.]
“You have children?” she said.
“Oh, yes. I have four daughters.”
“Four!” She was appalled. She actually leaned away from me as though my procreating might rub off on her. “But why? They’re a lot of work.”
I was sort of shocked. I had already had a relative tell me I was environmentally unsound at a family reunion. Had people stare at us when we went to Yellowstone, their eyes narrowed in disgust. And had my mother-in-law tell me my children were going to grow up and be trouble. I also had one person tell me how beautifully behaved my children were and how proud I should be of them (also at Yellowstone. That compliment was delivered by an elderly man who warmed my heart.)
“I want eleven,” I told her. “I want all daughters.”
She swallowed. “But how do you write?”
“Oh, I write. They’re my choice. My decision. I give up some things to have these children. But I love having them.”
She stopped a moment. “I made choices, too,” she said. “I decided on a career.”
Maybe we both left feeling sorry for the other. I don’t know.
On Thursday, after much begging and pleading, my bestie Rick Walton got my other bestie Cheri and me to go to “The Cabin” with him.
Okay–this was really THE MANSION. The biggest house I have EVER stayed in–ever been in for that matter. If I ever write for a Home Magazine, I’ll mention this place. As huge as it was, the owner had tastefully designed every room so I felt that it was a home of love–not a ‘look at me’ fashion statement. The three of us were there just over 24 hours and we all got lots of work done. But, oh my gosh, I missed the sounds of my girls. I missed being able to talk to them. We couldn’t even call.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED the experience. But something was missing and I’m not sure what. Was it my children?
The five of them would never keep me from this kind of experience (especially if I come home and tell them about accidentally seeing a naked man–No! Not Rick! You all are sick!–on an unrated movie.) They’ll let me go any time I want. They’ve told me so. They’ll push me to take time for myself. I could spend lots of days there (if it was available and I was invited, I mean.). My girls want me to be happy.
But so much of my happiness comes from hearing them singing in the basement (even if it is Justin B.), saying things like “I hate this novel. Please read this part for me, Mom.” Having one say, “I recorded Project Runway and I’m saving it to watch with you.” Or, after hours of concentrated work having another bring me in paintings for her sisters that are of AFI and Blink 182 logos and asking “What do you think?” Or getting an email from one that says, “Mommy. I miss you.”
I make them sound perfect and believe me, they aren’t. I have to ask them a thousand times to do simple things, they fight like crazed men with chainsaws, and they always steal my tweezers.
But at night, if I’m sad or lonely, I talk to my girls. If I’m crying, I ask them for hugs. If I’ve seen something hilarious, I can’t wait to tell them. I never, ever snuggle my novels. A book gets one hug from me–when I first take it out of the box fresh from the publisher. After that, I don’t even open the thing unless I have to do a reading.
Yes, I’ll go back to the cabin if I’m invited (And I may not because I was saying to Cheri every fifteen minutes, “What are you doing?”). But no place, however beautiful, however magnificent, is worth missing time with my babies who are growing up and leaving one at a time–those sweet girls who I really want to be with while I can.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of my own funeral. And when I die, I won’t have one book speak about me. But my daughters–all five of them–I hope they have the courage to speak about our lives together. I hope Kyra plays the piano and Nina plays the violin and Laura and Elise and Kyra and Carolina and Cait all give talks and say how funny I was to live with and that Cait sings something wonderful that may not be too religious (but is not Justin B.).
This post isn’t because I’m having a hard time writing the DD and raising children is easier than that novel. In fact, I may have figured some things out while I was away. It’s because this Sunday morning I feel particularly blessed to have had an amazing gift in this hard lif. I have prayed for many, many things and these girls were a direct result of prayer. That doesn’t happen often to me.
Family, that’s what it’s all about. Not even a Newbery or Printz or NBA or the Pulizter–none of it compares to listening to my daughters laugh when I tell them a funny story.
Thank you–I’ll take any ONE of those awards! You know that’s not what I mean.
By the way, after the funeral, I’m hoping to have a dance. I’m picking out the music now. Adding songs to the playlist. No slow sad crap. Let me know if there’s something you’d like to dance to. Don’t you think that’s a great send off?