This was going to be a much different post, when I set out to write it a couple of weeks ago.
It was going to be about fear, and gratitude. It was going to be about moving houses, and about leaving the neighbors who’d become mentors to us, and about becoming a part of a new community where the kids run out the door to meet playmates who appear in an instant. It was going to be about stepping out of our comfort zone, and about stepping into a home where David can work in peace. It was going to be about the discomfort of knowing that this might not be our forever home after all (we shall see. Talk to me after we plant some trees and get some paint on the walls), but also about the thrill of driving along the waters of the wide creek that meanders around our neighborhood as we make the turns toward our house. That’s what this post was going to be about. You know, life, and all the change that comes with moving forward.
We settled on both houses on Friday, March 28th (and if you think it’s taken me all this time find where I packed my computer? Of course). The day broke rainy and miserable, and everything was going wrong. I was late dropping the youngest kiddos off to my mom, because somehow I can still manage to get lost on the half-hour drive between our towns. The movers were behind schedule, and complained a lot, and refused to move things (well, everything we’d stowed in the crawl space). The playset-mover people never showed up to move the playset. Mud and dirt and wet leaves were appearing in streaks on the carpets we had to leave behind for the new owner (did I mention it was raining?). And when I pulled up to the new house, when I pulled into our new garage (did I tell you? WE HAVE A GARAGE!!), when I opened the back gate of the car to start unloading pictures and mirrors (and okay, a cardboard box filled with dusty booze bottles. Judge not until you have to move five people three miles down the road in four hours), I was a mess of nerves. Frantic, because we needed to be out of our house by two o’clock, and it was already 10:30. Frightened, because I still wasn’t entirely sure this was the house we wanted to buy. And terribly, terribly sad, because the old house was home. Our neighbors were family. The pool. The poooooool. (I’m going to miss that pool).
And then my phone rang. There was the chance the call would come that day, and I knew–of course I knew, because that’s how the world works, isn’t it?–that if the call were to come, it would come that day. And I dove across the front seat of the car for the phone, and answered it in the middle of the empty garage (WE HAVE A GARAGE!!), then realized the neighbors might not be too impressed with the new lady whooping and hollering like I’d just set off fireworks into the drywall, so I went inside my new house and had one of the very few conversations one has while shaking uncontrollably.
I am a writer.
It took me a while to work up the courage to tell you this, didn’t it, all those months ago? This has always been the case, though, as much as I’ve wanted to avoid it. My friends, and my family, have always assumed that I’m a writer, and have encouraged me, nudged me, pushed me along that path as much as I’ve dug in my heels: Fear of failure is a tremendous force, and one that will grow right in front of you the longer you try to avoid eye contact with it. But something switched once I had the babies. I suddenly had so much I had to get out, and if you have one of these goofy creative minds you know that there is no focus, no contentment, as long as it’s not getting out. But even more than that, the babies. There’s just something about having your own kids that makes you want to become the truest version of yourself. And so the writing began, really and truly.
But the funny thing is, as much as I wanted to chase this, this writing, I didn’t quit my day job to be a writer, I quit it to be a mother. And anybody with small children knows that from the time they’re up in the morning to the time they go to bed (and often a few more times between those times), the day doesn’t stop just because Mommy needs to get some sentences down. So I have to do what anybody with a separate, full-time job has to do: I fit the writing in around the corners of my life. When Saoirse was small, I stole moments during nap times. I snuck open the computer if she was playing quietly by herself. Once Quinn was sleeping through the night, I worked in the evening, until way, way, too late, while the rest of the house snored. And then, as Cian came and life got busier and the laundry piled up in the hamper, I woke up in the dark to write before the morning rush began. I snuck out to a coffee shop on the weekends, or shut myself away in a room while the household held its breath on a Saturday morning, waiting for me to finish. Bits and pieces, here and there, snippets when I wanted to focus on chapters, dipping a toe in when I wanted to dive. Guilt, always. Anxiety, often. Balls dropped, constantly. But once you stare down that wall of fear, you’re certainly not going to take your eyes off of it again just because it’s more convenient if you do. So you suck it up, and you take a deep breath, and you start to climb over what’s left of that wall. Because your kids are watching. And because you know what you’re capable of.
My children now don’t see me write very often, not usually. In the beginning, I let it take over my mom duties, seep into the cracks of my job until it was starting to take over, and I had to stop. What that means is that it doesn’t happen as much as it needs to happen, but again, the kids are the life. There is no nanny, nor babysitter, nor secret cage I lock them into when I have revisions to make. And these children: they are small, and precious, and this time is fleeting. The writing has to be tucked in around the edges, for now. Cornucopias, no one told us, sometimes need to come with an optional Tupperware lid.
But it’s the dream. And it’s the part of me that is the most honest. And, now that I can say, without flinching, “I’m a writer,” I’m happier than I’ve ever been. And so the dream is chased, even if not consistently. But the dream is there, always, waiting for me to finish the dishes and tuck the kids into bed so that the words can finally come out.
I picked up Saoirse from school a few days after that initial call in the empty garage. I’d had a couple more phone calls that week, and a flurry of emails, and did a lot of distracted pacing around. There were so many boxes to unpack (and where was my computer?), and a to-do list to conquer, and an afternoon snack to make. And as we drove to our new home, I told her.
“Oh, GOOD!” my SK said. “Does this mean you don’t have to write any more books anymore?”
I looked at her reflection in the rearview mirror, at my happy little six-year-old with her pink backpack, the little girl who wonders why adults think getting published is such a good thing, because to her it sounds kind of boring. She was watching the trees as we moved past them, excited to finish her homework and go outside to make some new friends. I made the turn onto our street, and saw our new house in front of us.
“Oh, Seersh.” I was laughing, because you know, kids. They’re honest. “Saoirse. This is only the beginning.” SK sighed, rolled her eyes, and told me about what she ate for lunch.
I am a mother, and I suppose this post is about fear: life is changing, responsibilities are growing, and change is coming. My kids are growing, this new career is calling, and I’m still really not sure about this house we just bought.
But this post is also about gratitude, because of course: the kids, the change, the house. And because I am a writer, and can finally say, quietly, or maybe loudly because I have to keep being brave, because why else are we here: I am also an author.
My debut novel, ALL THE DIFFERENCE, a women’s fiction/book club book, will be published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin, in 2015. I have a new website, leahfergusonauthor.com, that’ll be dedicated to all things bookish, so that I can continue to keep One Vignette as my lazy mama’s scrapbook and hey-would-you-believe-this journal. And those of you who are reading this, who have been cheering me on from the moment I finally got the courage to tell you I was writing this thing, that this novel-writing business was what I wanted to do, you mean the world to me. You make me feel like I’m climbing over that wall for a reason that’s bigger than my own stubbornness, and for that, I am grateful to you beyond words. I’ve more friends than I realize, and the hearts of so many of the people around me are so big and genuine I can’t quite believe my good fortune.
Oh, and guess what else?
I HAVE A GARAGE!!
And it’s just perfect for whooping and hollering.
I haven’t talked a lot about my novel-writing lately here, largely because…
I’m sitting at a desk littered with paperwork. I see two planners here…