I had lunch with Suzanne Paola (The Lives of the Saints, Body Toxic: An Environmental Memoir) this last week. She's a successful writer mom who teaches up at Western Washington University and who writes both poetry and memoir. I've been hoping to get to know her better since we both have children about the same age and she brings in spiritual motifs into her writing as I hope to do more and more.
We'd arranged to meet just the two of us, but her son came along too. It wasn't quite the lunch we were hoping for, but it did give me a chance to see how another writer mom handled her 8 year old. There is nothing quite so clarifying as seeing first hand that it's not easy to balance being a mom and being a writer, and that we all sort of muddle through, cringing at ourselves and desperately hoping we don't damage our children in the process of helping them survive till adulthood.
On the one hand I often see myself as not enough of a mother - I'm not one of those hands on, just this close to home schooling, gotta do every school event kind of mothers. I'm just as likely to buy cookies last minute for the birthday as to forget to pack all the necessary stuff for my child's trip to the beach while I'm at work. At the same time, though, I see mothers of my children's friends who are either so involved with their children's lives that the seemingly only live for their children or ones who are so checked out, it's little wonder their children are whining for attention every moment of the day. Somewhere in the middle is reality, I'm sure, for these moms, because I am at times both the over involved, gotta have the perfect fill in the blank before my child can participate in activity du jour. And at other times I'm so checked out and self involved that I find my child has become whiny and needy, distant and hurt, all at once.
So I see a lot of potential in getting to know Suzanne better, with our somewhat parallel lives. She's offered to read my memoir work too which is wonderful, and I'm hopeful I will be able to make this book finally.
Oh, and speaking of children, I came to the realization of why I don't have more pictures of my kids. I mean, sure I'm just plain forgetful sometimes and I'm happy when I remember to just get to where we're supposed to be relatively intact and dressed appropriately, but usually, about 2 miles down the road, already a bit late to get where we're going, it hits me...or worse, it hits me once we arrive at the end of the year performance, or the birthday party, or the day out to the beach... I don't have a camera with me.
So then later when we're telling stories of doing such and so with so and so to the grandparents, inevitably the question is "So did you take pictures?" and then it creeps in, that guilt of us living so far away from everyone and that we don't have much to show for future generations, or even our children's older selves, about this particular time in our lives. "No," we say. "We forgot our camera." To which my father usually clucks his tongue and my mother in law sighs, and I imagine my children digging through old CDs asking "Where is the picture of me as a sea crab from the last day of Second Grade, hrm?"
Then it hits me, it's my husband's fault. Or mine, depending on the level of guilt.
See, the /men/ in my family carry the cameras, post themselves at awkward places in any given spot, shooting stills with one hand and video with the other. They have all the latest gadgets which they troop out and compare on a regular basis, weighing the relative merits of old fashioned 35 mm vs a 4 meg digital. My uncle was the pentultimate camera man who would create the most intricate methods to by himself create perfect lighting and precisely timed photography. My father's basement is filled with 8mm film strips, racks of slides, and album after album of photographs recording each and every trip and family event. Going home I can find my eight birthday party, my confirmation, my graduation all in neat pages. It's a classic sort of Asian thing, and I remember many a time where I wished my dad would put down the camera and join in the fun.
So yeah, I'm Asian, but I don't click pix left and right. But I'm not a guy either, so I'm sorta off the hook that way. My mother and my aunts rarely take pictures, instead being in the thick of the moment, gossiping, herding children, serving food, and such. But then again, my husband isn't your typical dad either - he likes being with our kids, in the midst of all that fun and adventure.
So I guess we'll have to make pictures the old fashioned way, with story and memory.