It was 9:30 at night and I was driving north on a quiet road, hooked to a cell phone. My 6-year-old son, Lucas, sleepy and tearful, was on the line.
Do you love writing better than me?” The asked.
Peering into the darkness, I increased my speed. I had just walked out in the middle of a blue-ribbon publishing panel so I could be home in time to put Lucas and his older sister to bed.
“I love you and my work,” I explained. They’re two different kinds of love. Mommy has lots of love inside.”
I listened to his shortened breathing. “It’s just like your hockey,” I went on. “You love hockey so much, but you also love Mommy.”
For the moment, Lucas seemed content. Now I was the one feeling off-balance. I hadn’t expected to be explaining Freudian concepts of love and work to my first grader from the shadowy womb of the car. The need to write and the need to mother were on a collision course that evening. The clash seemed particularly jarring because it came amid the holiday season’s heightened expectations. It was the week before Thanksgiving, and my children were looking forward to their upcoming vacation in Florida with their father. I would miss them, but I welcomed nights of uninterrupted writing time.
Their flight was scheduled for Friday afternoon. Most of my week was filled with evening writing events — all of them promising to be interesting and stimulating. As usual, I did mental gymnastics, trying to figure out how to vault to my writing events and still stick my landings at home.
I forced myself to make choices. I’d forgo my ongoing fiction class; I’d attend a new screenwriting workshop. But the real crunch came with the publishing panel, scheduled for Thursday, the night before my children were leaving.
I planned an early, cozy dinner together and arranged for the children’s favorite sitter. On Thursday morning, however, my daughter woke up with a horrible, hacking cough, and I left work early so we could go to the doctor. At 10, Elissa considers doctors’ visits a fate worse than losing telephone privileges. Her mood was bleak, and when she was diagnosed with bronchitis, she turned sullen. We waited for a prescription for nearly an hour. When I was curt with the pharmacist, Elissa ducked down the nearest aisle, embarrassed.
Our cozy dinner became a hasty affair of soup and half-eaten sandwiches. The sitter came and I rushed out to the publishing program with promises of being home in time to read bedtime books. In one § Read the rest of this entry…