Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where the Magic Happens

If, like me, you misspent hours of your youth watching MTV's celebrity home show Cribs, you know there were standard moments that appeared in each show: the refrigerator shot, the expensive car display, the tasteless bling of the nouveau riche. If the celebrity guide was male, you also got the same wink-wink nod-nod joke in every tour. As each guy showed you his master bedroom, he couldn't resist introducing it as "where the magic happens."

With great deference to both my husband and our master bedroom, the magic happens somewhere else entirely here--my minivan. And before your imagination starts going into overdrive, I'm talking about magic of a completely different sort than those bozos did on Cribs.

My kids and I spend a lot of time roving the streets in that magic box we call a minivan. I drive them to and from school, which is twenty minutes away. Most of their school friends live at least that far. Gymnastics practice happens twenty minutes in the opposite direction. The new sailing program is a thirty-minute drive, and summer surf camp was a full hour away. For several hours each week, we are a captive audience for each other.

Much of the time we travel in silence. The kids read, we listen to music, or we listen to audiobooks. Our attention is rarely fully on each other, but the magic happens in those small moments in between songs and books.

Even if my children don't intend to tell me anything, they usually do. They may say school was "good," "nothing" interesting happened, and everything is "fine." But we are in that small space together so long and so often that they often let slip what's really going on in their heads.

This morning was a great example. My son's fifth grade class is having its first overnight trip today, and he has been somewhere between excited and indifferent about it. I loaded his overnight gear into the back of the minivan and headed off to school. A few minutes into our ride, I asked, "Do you want to listen to our story?" My policy is that both must agree to turn on the audiobook.

My daughter eagerly said "yes" to our current fantastical adventure story, which thus far seems good but a little creepy and monster-y. My older son, however, said, "Don't you think it's a little grim for a day when I'll be staying overnight somewhere else on September 11?"


Well, I guess it is. We listened to music instead.

While the kids bopped along to a pop song, I parsed that single sentence.

1. Excellent use of grim.

2. Although he hasn't said a peep, I guess he is a bit nervous about being away tonight.

3. I didn't know he knew enough about September 11 to appreciate its horror and solemnity. I wonder where that came from.

One car ride, one sentence, so much to consider. That's magic. And it happens every day while driving to and fro in my cliche of a mom-mobile. Those guys with the gilded houses have nothing on me (except those TVs that rise out of the furniture. I could use one of those.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

When the Blog Fails Me

I have never considered myself a writer. Never dreamed of writing a book, never kept a journal, never wrote a poem that wasn't assigned and hideous. Yet I write here with no intention of making money at it. Why?

I started this blog when I struggled to write a personal essay. After years of neglecting them, I no longer had the skills to write well easily. The blog began as writing practice. I had no idea who, if anyone, would read it. I didn't know if I wanted anyone to read it.

Over time, the blog has grown. Its readership remains small, but it has grown in importance to me. I have come to depend on it as a way to process my thoughts, to make the mental gears turn and to release feelings before they overwhelm me.

I also have found community here. Your feedback and comments make this an interactive process that I welcome like a good friend.

I have come to depend on this blog, but sometimes the blog fails me.

While the thoughts here are my own, I cannot write about everything. I do not live in a vacuum, and I am not a hermit. My experiences are shared.

Most of the time, this means that I focus more on my reaction to an event than the facts of the event. My husband is a much more private person than I am, so I don't write about him here. My children are growing and developing their own lives and opinions. Soon they will ask that I not write about them at all. I'm already cautious to avoid sharing things they may consider personal. When I write about my family, I try to avoid details and write only about how something affects me.

Other times, I cannot write about my feelings because it's not my story to tell. Sometimes it's not about me at all. Things happen to people I care about. When those things make me angry or sad, I want to write about it. But writing a first-person essay about my feelings makes it seem like it's my story. Much of the time, it's not. So I don't.

Finally, sometimes I can't write about something because it would anger someone or cause hurt feelings. I know members of my community--in my town and at our school--that read what I write. The things that weigh on me often relate to other people, and I'm not going to call out those people publicly. It's not the way to handle things.

This blog has become a crutch for me. I lean on it to help me sort thoughts and feelings so much that I often find it harder to deal with things if I cannot write about them. But some things are destined to remain in my head, or at least to a one-on-one conversation with a good friend.

At times this blog is quiet because the voices in my head are quiet. Other times, the noise in my head and heart is so cacophonous that the blog remains silent. This is one of those weeks.

Thanks for nothing, blog.