I’m thrilled to have a new essay at Full Grown People today. It’s about a blanket my mother was making when she died that I don’t know how to finish. Every time I look at the unfinished blanket, I feel kind of sad and inadequate, like an unworthy link in my family story. Why didn’t my mother ever teach me how to crochet so I could finish the damn thing? I sat with the story for a long time, and it was only recently that I thought of the story (and the blanket) in a different way: as part of an immigrant narrative I so rarely assign to my mother. She *was* an immigrant (even though I never really thought of her as one) and, as in all immigrant stories, something always gets left behind.
I feel better about it now. I might not ever finish the blanket, but I have this essay. And that’s something.
“The blanket, still in pieces, sits in a bag in my attic. I take it down sometimes, run my fingers over the soft white cotton, yellow now with age. If I let my eyes blur, I can almost see my mother crocheting in front of the T.V., a cigarette and glass of white wine on the nightstand beside her. Her needle moves in a jerky, seemingly haphazard way, but when it stops, a delicate white hexagon appears. Later, she will crochet these hexagons together to create the piece of blanket I am holding now.”
I was thrilled when my friend Dina Relles asked me to be a part of Proximity Magazine’s feature, “Still, More, Writers at Work”, where writers talk about how their writing life is structured. My writing day is divided into two distinct parts: the quiet time when my family is at work or school and I am home alone, followed the abrupt return to reality when they all come back. The world of dinner, lunchboxes, permission slips, reading logs. I loved reading about the other writers featured here, how they fit their writing lives around other responsibilities like jobs, families, pets.
I was talking to a friend yesterday about a mutual friend who recently returned from a one-month writing residency. No wi-fi, no talking until dinner time, no interruptions– just hours and hours to write, write, write. It sounded amazing, I told my friend, something I wish I could do one day. But don’t you think interruptions are part of what makes writing work? my friend said. Having to get up and walk the dog or answer the door or pick up dinner? Doesn’t walking away from the page offer something important too, the way you always think of the perfect line when you’re in the shower or waiting at a red light? She’s right, of course. It reminded me of how I always walk away from a crossword puzzle when I’m stuck, and when I return, the answer appears as if by magic.
“My writing day is divided into two distinct parts: when my kids are at school and when they are home. When they are in school, I use the quiet hours to step into the world of my novel and try to find a path through. When they come home, I am pulled sharply back into the real world. The truth is, I probably could keep writing even after my kids come home—they are old enough now to have their own interests and responsibilities to keep them well occupied. I’m the one who finds it hard to stay focused when they are there, always finding excuses to insert myself into their flow. I like the dual nature of my days: the quiet, dream-like state I enter when I am writing in an empty house and then the welcome return to the real world.”