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Last week we were at the Festival of Faith and Writing, and Maile met some kindred spirits. You know who you are. And she asked, “How do you make time to write?” and “How do you stay married and have children and take care of a house and still make time to write?” and “When do you write?” and a hundred other questions.
This, I think, is what makes a writers’ conference worth it. Not the speakers, though they might be very good. And not the information, though it might be very helpful. No, a writers’ conference is a good one when it puts you in contact with people who will help you find your way.
They said, “You have to set aside the time, and maybe dinner doesn’t get made or children eat cereal or toast and maybe the house doesn’t get cleaned or maybe you have to go out somewhere. But you have to make time. You have to. You will die if you don’t.”
We are trying to make time.
No. Scratch that. We are making time.
Tuesday night from 4 to 6 was the first time, and the children chose to make Caribbean Pineapple Quinoa and they did an amazing job and I played video games with them for an hour before that because that’s what happens when I’m in charge. And a little before 6, Maile came down and we ate dinner together that the children had made and behold, it was good!
We had a long conversation with them about how in a family it’s important that everyone gets to follow their dreams and it’s important that we care for each other in this way, that we tend gently and faithfully to the fire that each of us carries, because this is the kind of caring that families have to do for one another. Often, no one else will do it.
We looked our little girls in the face and said that they, in particular, have to be careful about losing themselves. This is how it can be if we’re not careful. This is how it can go.
This is when I told them that their mother loved to write stories, always had since she was their age, and that we hadn’t done a good job helping her find time to do this but that was about to change. Abra volunteered to make dinner every night. I said that was generous. “Well,” she said, “maybe not every night,” and we laughed and said we will see. This is when I told them their mother and I both studied English in college, and this is when Sammy said, “I thought Mom went to college to be a Mom.”
In that one sentence, I realized by how much I had missed the mark. A crisis mode that set in a decade ago, the mode in which we tried to survive by doing what we had to do, the mode in which I wrote for a living and Maile held everything else together, had slipped into our daily lives, and our months, and our years, and it had become our way of life, and it is my fault that we never came up out of that.
We are emerging, and we are all catching our breath, and we are all looking around, trying to see how it might be in this new world.