Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Grandma, Baby, and Writing

I forgot what it's like to have a baby in the house, the different smells and sounds, the way I want to make the house silent, so as not to wake the sleeping infant. My granddaughter, the one who was born in August nine weeks earlier, has come to live with us for a while. Yes, at the age of fifty, my husband and I seem to be starting over. Of course the difference this time is my daughter, granddaughter's mommy, has moved in too. So, not only did we gain a baby, but we acquired an extra grownup. Thank goodness we never downsized our home. Wasn’t Thomas Wolfe who said you can never go home?

As I write this piece, the wonderful bundle is sound to sleep in her baby chair. The rhythm of her breathing is enough to put me under. I get lost in her. Yes, I agreed to watch her during the day while mommy goes back to work. Yes, I do work out of my house. Yes, I have writing deadlines. But how could I allow someone else, someone that doesn't even know us, take care of a child I have such a huge investment in, a child who weighed three pounds when she came into the world? Now there's a question.

I listen for changes in her breathing just like I did when my daughters were babies. I hold my breath when she wiggles, praying she doesn't wake until I finish one coherent sentence. Today she did not sleep from seven in the morning until one-thirty in the afternoon. She's not even three months old and only weighs ten pounds. Her eating habits are ever three hours. Once again I have formula marks on my dark shirt. It’s not unlike me to open the freezer compartment when the microwave bell goes off. Ah, but she's asleep right now and all is straight and proper in the world.
The art of writing with one hand, while balancing a baby on your shoulder, does come back to you. Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. Her little head bobs around and once in a while she leans enough to get a good view of my face. Then, she breaks into a smile. Gas or not baby smiles stop me dead in my tracks every time. I can walk away from a novel scene or an important point in a book review without a thought.

One of my children was raised on my lap as I wrote. She's now nine and loves to read, write, and draw. I take complete credit for that. I can’t give you one reason why she is a math whiz with scores that goes through the roof. She listened to my story drafts and slept nearby just as this little granddaughter does.

All week I've slowly taken my writing room apart so Mommy and Granddaughter will have a private space. I thought I would mourn this action. I wanted this space for so long, but I found I write just as well tucked away in my bedroom that sits high in the trees with a night view of the Atlanta skyline. I've found writing is in my blood and that means I fall into scribbling no matter where I am. So, I believe when Virginia Woolfe wrote of a room of one's own, she spoke metaphorically about that part of our soul that must be closed away so we can create. I believe women can create anywhere. I think of my own grandmother, who never had any true space that wasn't invaded by us grandkids. She made the most intricately designed baby dresses. What she called handwork is art by today’s standards.

My bundle is still asleep. I look at her and see the future. One day she'll look at me and see an old woman with white hair and a pink scalp. She’ll remember all the stories I told. She’ll remember that closeness even though she might not be able to remember exactly when the bond began. We are the essence of our own lives. Live up guys. Each moment is a hoot. Keep writing.

Ann Hite’s collected Black Mountain stories, are available as a download from http://www.deadmule.com/fiction/2008/08/life-on-black-mountain-the-book/. Her story, The Christmas Tree Hunter, appeared in Christmas Through A Child’s Eyes in bookstores October 17, 2008. Her personal essay, Surviving Mom, was part of Marlo Thomas’ latest collection, The Right Words At The Right Time, Vol., 2, which made number 14 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (May 14, 2006). Feel free to visit her website: www.annhite.wordpress.com

1 comment:

Kerry Madden said...

How lucky she is to have you...I raised my nine-year-old the same way...on my lap...while I was writing...the older two a little less because they were so close together, but I absolutely wrote while all three slept (when they did sleep) nearby. Thanks for this beautiful essay.