Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Literary Mama Writing Prompt: My Subject Chose Me

From Literary Mama's Literary Reflections Section:

In this month's essay, Lindsey Mead recalls the day she took her children to Walden Pond and the lingering effect it's had on her writing. She writes: "My children changed so fast I could hear time whistle as it flew past me, and I was desperate to remember the small details. In the process of writing them down, I realized that other, subconscious instincts had propelled me to the page: in the act of recording small memories, I unearthed the meaning of these small fragments of my life."

List three memories you and your family made last week and then five details about each that you don't want to forget.

This morning A and I sat at her little art table in her tiny vintage gold and red chairs painting together. It was grey and damp outside -- the kind of day that makes us both want to stay inside, curled up with videos and books and crafts. We have frightening synchronicity at times: our moods mirror each other so completely that the question of nature versus nurture seems to be constantly roiling beneath the surface.

She'd asked to "paint together" and had retrieved the yellow-orange tubes of paints from the dark closet and pulled up chairs and so I had no choice but to say, "yes." I squirted thick pools of color into the mini plastic muffin-tin-like tray and we took turns dipping our paintbrushes.

"What that?" she asked, pointing at my sheet of brown butcher paper.

"A butterfly." My strokes were filling the page uneasily.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, delighted. "This a bee." She pointed at her own thick orange brown rendering.

The paint ran out in each of the compartments of the tray, so we knew we were done.

"Look, Mama!" I looked. "It's beautiful."

She picked up my paper. She held it close to her face, carefully circling each detail with her eyes.

"Oh," she said. "That nice!" And she meant it.


When we get to the L-M-N-O-P part of The Alphabet Song, Little A wiggles her hips.

She always wants to do things together: "run together!" "sing together!" "dance together!" "paint together!" I spend my days feeling included.

When a toy is missing, she wanders around the house, shouting its name. "Baby!" "Thomas!" "Monkey!" They do not answer and soon I am on my hands and knees.

She says "tarry" rather than "carry."

When I leave the house, she calls after me, "drive face!"

Yesterday, she stood at the edge of the playground, begging one of the four year olds to play with her. The older girl didn't hear her "pleases" and didn't see her holding her hands, palms together, in front of her in a gesture of pleading and supplication. I couldn't help but laugh along with the other parents and hope that this was the last time she showed such sad desperation.

The Writing Prompt
I've been thinking about this writing prompt for a few days now, wondering how I would attack it. There are many things I'd like to remember but I'm reluctant to focus too much on trying to remember things for fear I won't enjoy these events as they happen. I started an email account for Little A a while ago. When we remember, my husband and I send photos and notes to the account. Neither of us go in for baby-books much and this solution to the problem of how to have something to give A to remember her childhood satisfied my husband's love of technology. The things I send to her are little notes about mannerisms (like Two above) or milestones or funny/thoughtful/quirky that she says. They are not fleshed out -- and they definitely don't include moments of sad desperation. It occurred to me how differently I write down things I want to remember and things I want to share.

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