I’m a stay-at-home mom. Never mind the fact that my child is now in her mid-thirties and left the nest a long time ago. Never mind me not staying at home until she graduated college. That’s not technically true. I worked from home when she became a teenager. Sometimes I traveled for work. If there were parties while I was gone she was an expert at hiding the evidence.
Sometimes I tell people I’m retired. They, who appear to be older than me, raise their eyebrows in doubt. I want to tell them I’m seventy-five, but in truth I’m just shy of sixty-two. I dye my possible gray hair blonde. I only assume it is gray, not that I’ve seen its true color since my late thirties. Telling them I’m older than I am would only make them hate me more.
People ask, “What did you do?”
I tell them I was a weaver. Chances are I will have to explain what a weaver is. They confuse it with quilting or needlework. I tell them weaving is making the cloth. I explain I can’t sew a lick. I don’t even like sewing. I don’t hem. I don’t sew buttons on that fall off. There is a pile of clothes that my husband has asked me to mend. That was years ago. I hid them away. Hopefully, he has forgotten about them.
Sometimes I don’t feel bad about saying I’m retired. Teachers retire early. If anyone has a right to retire early, it’s teachers. For several years I substituted. If anyone has paid his or her dues to society, it’s a substitute teacher.
My husband wants me to make something of my life, like Grandma Moses. He doesn’t express it in that way. I just feel an underlying pressure. He comes home and asks, “What did you do today?” It’s like asking kids what they learned in school. They rarely ever have an answer.
Today he won’t have to ask. I cleaned the house. When I do clean it is so rare, one can’t help but notice.
He will come home today and ask, “Did you write something today?”
I will respond, “No, I cleaned the house.”
He wants me to be a writer. I’m not even sure how that came about. I’ve been dabbling in it for several years now. I once showed him poems I had written in high school. That’s when this new phase of my life began.
I told him I would try my hand at writing. He was excited. I think he hopes I will be a best selling author and make us rich. He is delusional. I heard the other day that a book is uploaded every five minutes on to Amazon. In his enthusiasm on starting me on the writing path, I did get a lap top computer out of it. Not bad.
I don’t know what writers do. So I acquainted myself with some. It was easy to do. I’ve come to the conclusion there are more writers than there are actual books in the world. I question them about their methods. The whole scenario is still vague to me. The only think I have really established is that they drink a lot of coffee. Talk about a buzz kill. I don’t like coffee. I suppose I could move to England. I don’t know any English writers. But, I assume they drink tea. I like tea. To be more specific, I like chai lattes more than I like tea. If I do become a writer, I will be a fat one. Writing one page makes me want to reward myself with one.
To further encourage me my husband said it was okay if I got one of those whipped cream canisters like they have at Starbucks. Soon I won’t be able to fit in my writing chair. I won’t be able to keep up this charade.
When I first started this several years ago, I racked my brain for something worthwhile to write about. Someone I met when I was eight years old popped into my mind. I had met a slave, well someone who had been born into slavery. I would write about her life. If someone asks me about being retired, I can tell him or her I actually knew someone who was born into slavery. After that statement they shouldn’t question me on being old enough to retire.
For three years I researched her life. I waited too late. Most people who had known her were dead. Maybe instead of writing I should have set my sites on detective work. I still managed to dig up a lot. It was mostly stuff that people wouldn’t want me to write about. When it dawned on them I was writing this down, they denied that they had said it. I stored my research away.
Then I heard of something called NaNoWriMo. I dug my research back out. I aimed for the top of the mountain, that 50,000-word peak. I planted my flag, but the whole path to the summit was zigzag. The route I took to get there made no sense. I boxed my research back up.
During my couch potato virtual climb to the top I sat for hours on end in a slumped position. I finally came up for air but my back didn’t. Can one get disability benefits from a month stint at writing? My writing acquaintances were vague on this as well.
My back got better. I learned to sit erect while writing. What did you learn in writing school today? I learned to sit erect.
In the meantime, while I was lollygagging around, not really taking this whole thing seriously, someone wrote “The Help.” While walking on a New York City street, my husband and I did one of those zigzags to avoid running into someone crossing a busy intersection full speed ahead. He had that particular book stuck up in his face. Later we went on a retreat to find a friend had brought that same book along for their nightly reading. “The Help” was everywhere, like the universe laughing at me. My husband didn’t say anything out loud, but telepathically I was getting the vibe, “You missed the boat on that one.”
I let the writing thing rest for a while. I took up painting. My husband came home from work, “Did you do any art today?” The chais came in handy for the artwork as well.
A couple of years passed. I found out some of my vague writing friends were doing NaNoWriMo. I joined them. This time I meant business. I began writing before my husband went off to work. The next thing I knew he was opening the same door he had left through that morning. I said, “You know how to fix dinner, right?” He stumbled around in the kitchen, asking me where things were, and how do you do this. It was impossible to keep my train of thought. I haven’t mentioned until now that the kitchen snack bar also is my writing desk. Teapots and vitamins are lined up in front of me.
Anyway, after all the questions, I caved. “Okay, I’ll fix dinner. You sit here and read what I wrote.” He obeyed. That became the scene every night until I actually surpassed the 50,000 mark and made it to the less oxygenated height of 80,000 words. This time I went in a straight line. I don’t know if his taste in literature isn’t that refined, or the fact that he is just blindly in love with me, makes him like everything I write. He is an avid reader, and his favorite authors are some of the most respected. Still I know it’s because he is blindly in love.
If you write about Paris, can you deduct a trip to Paris from your taxes? I gleaned no information from my writing friends.
I don’t know how long this writing gig will last, or even if it will amount to anything. I am thinking about giving up the chai habit. Does giving up chais mean giving up writing? Will learning to like coffee make me a better writer? I have so many questions about what it takes to be a writer.
After reading that 80,000-word draft of a novel, night after night, my husband found a contest he thought I should enter. He was more elated than me that I made the short list of finalists. It was one of those religious experiences. Now what? My writing friends were once again close lipped. I once met a swami. He said that the real work begins after one has a religious experience.
I plan on getting my loom out of storage. Maybe inspiration will come while making cloth.