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A Mother’s Day Reflection

Updated: May 10, 2020

When I was six, I got a diary for Christmas. It was the kind that fits in the palm of an adult, with a dark red cover, Byzantine-style motifs, gold edged pages, and a small padlock. It came with a sealed envelope containing two keys strung through a plastic twist tie.

It was, without question, a defining moment. But was I being pointed in a direction or did the occasion awaken an intrinsic predilection? I’ll never know for sure.

I doubt whether I fully understood, then, the power of words and, by extension, sentences and the ideas behind them, some trenchant, others, oblique. Metaphoric. It was a book with pages, a book to write in.

I took up the challenge like someone with a mission. I engaged in the act. With my sharpened HB pencil, I reported what I did each day, who I played with, whether it was sunny or raining. I diligently transcribed the TV shows I watched and the long list of foods I had eaten. I don’t recall if I lasted the year but the first months were charged with energy. They were magical.

And that is the magic that has stuck with me through the years, that gave me a love for new pens and Moleskin notebooks, and fuelled my disappointment when computers took over and erased the tactile joy of touching the page.

I’ve been a writer since the age of six, and though my interests have shifted and evolved, the prickle of excitement around the ritual of putting words to paper has not. The hunger to go “where no man has gone before”, to explore a galaxy, a constellation unknown. To reach into my imagination and into my heart to concoct a universe that others recognize, one that has the power to make them laugh or cry or think about their lives.

Five decades later I am still amazed at how a certain combination of words or images can move me, or stir my creative juices. How they summon me to my workshop to make something of my own.

Something similar lives in my son. The urge to create. It’s easily recognizable in an old picture of him. He is 6 or 7, the age I was when I got my diary. He is wearing sunglasses and trying to look like a musician as he bangs on a set of drums that my mother engineered out of pots and pans and garbage cans. His first drum kit of many.

I remember wondering in the days before I adopted him what our link would be since nature wouldn’t be part of our algorithm. How would we bond as mother and son if I hadn’t given birth to him. I wrote poems about it, my first published book and a written version of our history together. Call it what you will— a printed document, an artifact. A work of art. It sowed my connection to him. It seeded our narrative. As a child he told me everything. Nights before bed. Everything. The other mothers used to phone me for the lowdown on what had happened at school, their own sons rather tight-lipped and uncooperative.

Without my noticing it, the years went by. He graduated from Engineering school. Got a job and moved in with a girl. He confided a little less in me. He drifted, as children eventually do. Ruminating, I felt sorry for myself. I wrote a poem about how he had stopped phoning me without a prompt or friendly reminder.

Except he called me without my expecting it—or maybe I called him, I don’t remember. We awkwardly shot the breeze before moving on to more important matters, the pandemic, our shared anxiety about when it might end.

“Mom,” he said finally. It was the Friday before Mother’s Day. “I’ve decided that the corporate thing just isn’t for me.”

A little something leapt inside of me.

He mentioned his music, his composing, his editing of music videos, the bands he was playing with. Their new projects. Something about the way he spoke, with fire and passion, connected with me. I could almost hear his heart pounding. It reminded me of that Christmas in 1966 when I pulled off the wrapping paper and held that diary for the first time.

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