Thursday, March 17, 2005

while sitting on a beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica

My mother, the writer, tells me I should write, that I am a good writer and always have been. She remembers that I wrote novels when I was thirteen. Actually, I wrote only beginnings of novels – 50 or so pages here and there.

I should write about the middle ages (which I studied in college and grad school) – historical fiction – but I am not interested in that genre. I didn’t study day-to-day life: whether or not they used tapestries to keep homes (castles? stone buildings?) warm, non-drafty. I studied medieval “intellectual history,” which does not much help to inform my potential readers about a regular, everyday medieval person of any class. I did study medieval literature and how it connected to medieval history – but that is also divorced from day-to-day reality. The topic that fascinates me most is how medieval thinkers understood and discussed the relationship between time and eternity.

I should write about my first years of teaching – right out of college – at a tiny special education school in the East 30s in Manhattan. A school run by a crazy, control-freak woman who drove employees out, usually forcing them to resign, if they didn’t keep her informed about their personal lives of if she imagined they said bad things about her or favorite employees. It is hard to explain how someone is crazy without sounding crazy or paranoid yourself. She was exceptionally hard to work for. I adored my first students, though. They are now in their early 20s, the age I was teaching them. But is this a story? Honestly, I’ve tried to block most of it out. I don’t even know if I can remember the details of those years. I have journals that I am unable to read. I do remember being put in charge of the lunch table of the oldest boys in middle school – the seventh graders – and the peas that were thrown and put down people’s shirts.

Right now, what is on my mind most is my son, my first child (my only child so far). He is eleven months old and amazing – all consuming. But so many people write about motherhood/parenthood experiences. Do I have anything original to say?

As a mother, I feel more myself in some ways. But I am also striving to be more myself now that my self-ness is threatened, subsumed, consumed. I want clothes like I wore ten, fifteen years ago – or a more “mature” or “modern” version: the big boots with a vintage dress, the chunky rings, the fishnets (except I now hate wearing stockings of any sort – so binding). What I used to wear as a teen and twenty-something in New York City is now practically mainstream, which is good (access) and bad (trendy): The low-rise jeans, the vintage dresses, the big boots.

My post-baby body is fitting back into old clothes, but it seems different in shape. I want to start over, go back, clear things out but return to the essential Morgan. I don’t think I mean the younger Morgan – I’m not too worried about being in my 30s. (though now I look at people in their 70s, 80s… and wonder how in the world I can possible turn into that… or how they used to be me.) It did dawn on me that I am about to turn 34. That gave me pause, for a moment.

While I feel like I am returning to my self – the roots of Morgan – I am also worried that I am not myself. Maybe if I can dress the way I did, listen to the same music at full volume (to which, thankfully, my son bangs his head – I think I’ll have the grunge, punk-rock kid) – then I am still myself.

This is the first time I have written – really written what I am thinking – in years. I have written race reports, edited business writing, written notes on ideas for catchy little articles that I have never pitched to anyone because I don’t know how to sell myself.

Maybe this is all about time: the relationship between the “eternal” Morgan and the “in time” Morgan.

Or just finding the time. I am on vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica, as I write. Vacation is very different, slower, with an eleven-month-old. I have not been anywhere tropical since I was fifteen. My sister-in-law is napping in the hotel room with my son. And I wondered: what did I do – before baby, before marriage, before lots of things – with free time? I am not a person who takes naps (my mother has something to say on that subject, too: she wants to force me to like them); they make me feel odd – my ears ring, my head pounds, I get a headache, I can’t fall asleep easily (and I fall asleep within minutes at night), and I wake up grumpy and can’t shake it off for an hour or more. I do like reading, but I rarely read for hours on end anymore and reading feels like a bedtime thing now.

I used to write. But that was so long ago – but it feels right now, sitting on a beach in Jamaica.

No comments: