I’ve been reading mystery novels. I read mystery novels when I’m tense. Last week I was tense. On top of the show I just felt like not such a great mom. Primarily because I wasn’t around. We barely got to spend time together at all. I know he had a great time with the babysitter, but still, I have the nagging guilt. When I find myself feeling like not such a great mom I try to do things for C that would make him happy, like fresh baked cookies for his school lunches.
I found myself baking cookies at midnight last week; right before I made the cookies, I painted the kitchen. Not the whole kitchen, but the parts of the walls where the coffee stains wouldn’t come up. I wanted to do all the things, clean, bake, tidy, memorize my lines, do mom things, write things, wife things, things for my job.
To combat the stress of my own expectations, I downloaded mystery novels and read them in the dark on my phone. When we were at the beach house over Easter break I picked up a Robert Parker novel. The beach house is stocked with mysteries, and while we were there, I read several of them. My favorite were Parker’s Spenser novels.
Spenser is set in Boston and the Massachusetts coast. Reading them makes me feel close to where I grew up, and to my father and brother, who have probably read every Spenser ever written. When I picture my dad, I see him supporting his face with one hand, propping a book open with the other, consumed by it. My memory image doesn’t adjust even though he now reads a kindle.
After I left New England I never wanted to go back there to live. Now I miss it. The shape of the trees, the attitudes, the food, the maps, the accents. For a long time, all my childhood memories condensed around the things that made me feel like shit, and now suddenly the good things are coming back.
Snowball fights and capture the flag. Riding my bike to Myette’s general store and over to the little waterfall. Sitting in the woods reading, making up poems by flashlight under my blankets. My dad with his nose in an endless book. My step-mom baking cake for my first day of school. The way she would smile so big when she’d done something she knew would make me happy. Singing to my brother as he sat in his bouncy chair, playing cars and blocks with him, same as I do now with my son. The sun as it came through the trees when we would walk a path through the woods, up the tall hill and down the other side, looking for arrowheads we’d never find.
The place I never wanted to go back to is a place I now miss. The family that has been destroyed for decades, that I mourned and let go, is one that I suddenly wish I could go home to.
I’m writing for the season finale of NY Madness next week, and tonight David Bar Katz gave us the theme on which we are to write our plays:
Love and Time Travel.
My first thoughts are about electrons rimming black holes and circling back into our bodies. About whether love is a feeling or an object. About how time is entirely subjective, it’s existence only experiential. How love is work, keeping love is harder than letting it go.
Then I thought of my dead friends. It doesn’t feel anymore like I’m being punched in the gut when I think of them, but still it’s every day. I think of my living parents, who are different now than in my memories. Who have tried so hard to do the best they can for me, even when their own lives have been so much more difficult, or even just different, than they anticipated. I think of my son, and how his future keeps me up at night. I want him to have access to anything he can dream.
I sweep the floor while the oven pre-heats. I spoon out the batter onto the tray, wash the last dishes as the timer counts off the minutes. I set the cookies to cool, let a chamomile tea steep.
I stay up late tonight and download another Spenser novel.
Want to check out NY Madness? Here’s a link.