Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In the swing

Because I've been doing on-task writing all my life -- first as an English major, then reporter, then lawyer -- by now, the process of committing words to paper is not difficult.

Writing is not some fraught, mysterious process in which my ego is at stake.  It is simply what one does when sitting at the computer, after reading Carolyn Hax and making sure no important celebrity marriages have occurred in the past twelve hours.

So, writing is what I do for a living.  And writing is what I do for fun (along with a few other things).  Why didn't I just go "all in" and be a Writer?

College is typically an exciting time of making new friends, "partying," indulging in a buffet of romantic options, and pulling wild stunts you'll fondly recall for the rest of your days.  For me, college was about staying in my rural hometown, reading British novels in my room (or I should say, continuing to do so), and taking Sunday drives to nearby Clovis, NM with my professor dad, debating our respective philosophies of life. 

My dad was of the go-to-law-school-and-get-a-job mentality.  He had given up on the dream of my being a doctor, and was making an honorable compromise with the whole law school business. 

(Plus, I seemed to like reading and writing quite a lot.   After pre-med, getting a B.A. in English Literature felt like roller skating.  In the advanced classes, all we did was sit around the professor's house drinking box wine and gossiping about the sex life of Lord Byron.  He was a real rogue, that one!  He and his adorable club foot.)

I was skeptical that my dad's dad-like take on things was right for me.   Certainly I did not relish the prospect of trying to sell magazine stories and random excerpts from my journal, while living in my car, in New York City.  Rather, I wanted a comfortable life in a small English village in the 1930s, inhabiting an Agatha Christie novel without succumbing to murderous impulses or being offed.  As a side note, I wished to do exactly as I pleased, forever.

Long story short, I tried out various things  -- learning in the process that I was too young and clueless to be a Writer -- and by age 28, was ready to spend three years in sunny Berkeley doing something productive. 

Eventually, it all worked out.  I did not become a U. S. Supreme Court justice, which my dad -- around the time of the Ginsburg nomination -- seemed to believe was a reasonable career goal.  I, too, weighed ninety pounds soaking wet, wore a lot of black, and had been known to scowl.  All that was left was to apply myself!  But it was not to be.

Instead, I work in a nice office, in a flowered dress and cardigan, while drinking tea, among gentle eccentrics.  Sometimes the Vicar stops by to chat, or who I think may be the Vicar.  So far, not one of us has been found slumped across our desks: poisoned to death by a traceless, odorless substance. 

Box, checked.  And I think Dad, who died in 1993, would have approved.

* * * *
Not long ago, I took my daughter to the park.  As she has always done, she climbed into a swing and began swinging.  For a while I pushed her, and then she pumped herself as high as she could go.
Last year, her pre-K had a swing set in the yard.  Every afternoon, I'd find her soaring away, singing songs to herself.  Sometimes another kid was swinging next to her, and sometimes not.
Now, she looked over at me with a beatific smile and said:  "Mom! You know what?" 
"In preschool, I loved swinging so much, sometimes I broke the rules and did tricks on it." 

And I thought:  That's it.

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