Last night, I summoned up enough courage to give up the writer lurking in a turret in a bleak castle on the moors kind of isolation to attend a Mother Talk in Philadelphia. Marion Winik was the featured author (see 11/14), along with Andi Buchanan whose book, It's a Boy, I plan to review soon. The night was about perfect for me...all except the wrong turn at Island Avenue which dumped me in some industrial/abandoned Philly zone until M. got me back on track and sent me all the way down by the river to direct me in such a way that even I "couldn't screw it up" (thanks, dear).
I met up with my brother and we walked over the jagged cobblestones to his favorite small pub, the cold air breaking all around us. We huddled over a meal and a couple of beers, talking without any of the standard (beautiful) interruptions such as my son jumping over his back, my daughter telling him a tale of school, or the baby swiping his cell phone. I was half-tempted just to leave from there and go back home, not daring to mix and mingle with a roomful of strangers. But, D. was hell-bent on making sure I was safe and sound, so he went with me to the house and watched me go in. (After, I admit it...I made him walk around the block once with me in spite of the dropping temperature, so that I wouldn't arrive too early. He kept saying, "No, I'm the same way...no problem," and I almost believed him--because he was shivering and his face had gone all red with the chill of the first true cold of the season--and he still didn't complain.)
We said our goodbyes and I was in a stranger's house faster than I knew what to do and there was Marion Winik, who I recognized from her book cover...and there was Andi Buchanan, who I had just seen a few days earlier on the Channel 10 news. There were other women milling around with glasses of wine, and I just started talking to them in a freakish display of social dexterity entirely unfamiliar to me. I am still more of an "observer"--that I've always been and likely will always remain. I think it is helpful as a writer, to blend in and take note of others. As it often is in these writing/motherhood circles, I was the youngest woman there (except for Marion's college-age cousin and her roommates who only visited briefly to get their books signed). More than one woman said to me, "Oh, I thought you must have been here for a school-thing or something, you have kids!?!" They always seem surprised, which I mind less and less as I get older and older. "You look so young!!!" to which I usually reply, "I started early..." because, really, what else is there to say?
Marion read from her book, the essay entitled, "Mrs. Portnoy's Complaint"--a brave and deep look at the separation that she has faced with her teenaged sons butting up against the "love-fest" that is her relationship with her little girl. Her perspective is such an important one. Usually, when our oldest child is seventeen, the youngest isn't too far behind...but, when there is a "late addition"--that mixing of an adolescent's bid for freedom and a toddler's need for physical mothering causes whiplash. I'm glad not to have to confront that, myself. By the time my eldest hates me (theoretically, anyway)--the youngest should be hot on her heels as a "tween" herself. (I think this is a good thing...)
Both women were luminous and their voices were powerful and inspiring to me. Winik briefly discussed the significance of the personal--especially using the essay as a vehicle for change, which is something I can certainly appreciate. Buchanan described the assembly of her anthologies by honestly exploring her own motivations for examining gender and motherhood. I walked out of that house into the clear late-fall night filled up with a glass of chardonnay, a handful of signed books, and a head swirling with thoughts.