A Little More: Looking back, saying goodbye
It was a little more than a year ago that I received an email in my in-box from a woman named Kristin. She'd read one of my stories (I think it was an essay about my oldest son Carter's broken leg) and was wondering if I'd like to submit writing samples and maybe begin working for ParentDish.
I told her that I was interested, but that lately, I'd been writing mostly about my son Avery, who has Down syndrome. I wanted to keep doing that, because as a new mom to him, I'd been hungry for such stories. But there were very few places that regularly included these kinds of parenting experiences--often I'd been told they were "too scary" or "depressing."
I remember the phone conversation with Kristin clearly. I said, "I want to do it, but can I write about Avery? I hope it will be okay?"
And the rest, as the saying goes, is history--I've written more than 80,000 words over 118 posts at ParentDish, first for Kristin and then for Susan, mostly about being a mom to a son with Down syndrome.
When I began, I worried about the weekly deadlines. I hadn't been on a similar writing schedule since college. And too, I'd had enough experiences in my life that let me know the world isn't always a welcoming place to a writer, or a mama, or a child with an extra chromosome, and I'd be combining all 3.
I wrote my first columns from our house on a hilltop near a lake. As the months progressed, I found myself writing from a fold-down table in a travel trailer, from a coffee shop with deep, velvet couches, from a McDonald's and a Subway and 2 libraries. Later still, from a wobbly table in 70-year-old log cabin, using a dial-up connection that quit whenever the wind blew. Sometimes I'd have tears in my eyes; other times I'd be laughing. But always, I wrote.
I wrote posts in my head while driving to and from the grocery store; I wrote while watching Sesame Street with the little boys, I wrote on long walks. I even wrote posts in my dreams.
There were stories about fumbling and failing; there were stories about cupcakes and jelly beans and lemonade. I wrote about cooking scrambled eggs and wearing fake diamonds and hanging the laundry out to dry. In winter, we made angels in the snow; in summer, I wrote about heat and smoke and forest fires. The cast of characters included my boys--Carter, Avery, and Bennett--and others, in supporting roles, like frogs, a puppy, fish, and an old cat.
The weekly deadlines became a part of me, and what's more, I came to need them. I needed to hear from you each week--to touch base, to connect, to give and receive encouragement and understanding and support. You've helped me be a better writer; you've helped me see how I can be a better friend and wife and mother too, and I'm so very grateful.
But the boys no longer sleep late--they rise with the sun, with me, and the quiet of the early morning has been replaced by boisterous, happy, wakeful children (and the puppy, who has grown into a spotty dog with an impossibly long, curling tail). The daylight passes too quickly and before I know it, the moon is rising and there are stars to count and wishes to name.
The leaves are beginning to turn, and of course each one must be examined and marveled at, then gathered into a pile to be jumped in, again and again. We have bread to bake and pumpkin soup to make and through it all, I have children to raise.
If this column at ParentDish has been a podium, it's time to step away and make room for another voice. Another writer, another family, another mama with her own stories to tell. I don't know how to explain it other than to say it's like the moment when I knew I wouldn't be having any more babies. I held a newborn in my arms and thought, Ah, that's nice. Now where are my boys?
Which is to say, it's time to say goodbye. And thank you, for everything.