Last night we were having family close time — just sitting together and recalling special times, and talking about how we had felt, and saying “It had meant so much to me when you did this,” or “It hurt my feelings the time you did this,” but mostly just gently reliving some of our time together before going to bed. Tucker had said something to Claudia like, “Before the day you came, she wasn’t even a mother. You made her a mother.” And Claudia, much to my surprise, said, “She was an author.”
I did not realize that Claudia had ever not known that I wrote, as what she sees me doing 99% of the time is sitting and typing. But only recently did I make it clear to her that it was “that” kind of writing — stories — and we had to go up to the shelves in my bedroom that were filled with literary journals and anthologies that contained work of mine. “Can I read them?” she asked. And I deflected this, because — what was the point, really? There isn’t much point in reading these things, for the same reason I stopped writing them — they were, like so much literary fiction, thinly-veiled memoir, and I had gotten very bored with creating the thin veil.
When Tucker moved in in 2013 — or, in the summer he spent here before moving in — I tried to just make notes, to write things down as much as I could, so I did not lose them. Because I felt there were so many stories that could be lost. It was the year I found out my father had dementia and the things my father had done to me as a child were now being erased from his brain, and I was going to make sure that they were not erased. I also knew I was experiencing beautiful, magic changes in my life, and in the way the entire world would look at neurodiversity. In some cases, I was writing down stories from Tucker’s childhood or earlier, that I had not even been present for, but that I did not feel confident would necessarily make it to a next generation if I didn’t.
I didn’t attempt to create fictional names, places, dates, anything. I just wrote. Things were unbelievable enough as they were.
At some point I didn’t even have the wherewithal to write those stories down, because our family had changed so much, so fast, and I had to live it rather than look at it. I gave up even taking notes.
But recently, I thought about our household’s “five-year plan”. With Tucker getting his PhD, and me homeschooling the kids, I thought, What’s for me? I had loved teaching the Fan Fiction workshop at Mighty Writers last year, and so even though I had not done any writing, I knew I was still very passionate about it.
A few months ago, one of my longest-running “first readers” — and friend — died of cancer. When I had stopped writing, and had continually insisted that I was just about to get back into it, it was she who suggested that maybe I just didn’t want to be a writer. Well, that is true. I don’t want to “be” anything, not anything that anyone else isn’t. I don’t want to be a fiction writer. But I often look at those listings for open mike nights, with a memoir topic, where you put your name in a fishbowl and go up and read something you’ve written, and I think… boy does that sound fun.
Perhaps “fun” is not the word. I’m sure that for other people, much of what I have to write is not going to be considered “fun”. I realize how many years now I have spent saying, “Oh, I’ll just wait until this one other person dies, so they don’t have to deal with it…” there’s nothing to deal with. They know or they don’t. They choose to believe or they don’t.
All my stories are mine.
I never thought about the context in which they mattered to my children — until I realized that Claudia cared about writing. That she used writing as a tool to escape from situations where she is bored or feeling unhappy. That it takes her to places where she feels free. I never told her this was possible. She never saw me doing it. (Again, if she saw me type, she certainly never heard me say “BOY do I feel free now that I’ve written that!“)
A friend of mine was a missing person for four or five days last April. Many people got ready to hear that she was dead. She’s not dead. But she is writing.
And it’s been suggested that I might sometimes join her.
Here is Claudia’s Harry Potter/Dungeons and Dragons mashup fan fiction.