Babble & Scribble
Anyone who parents teenagers believes in time travel. Captured in the art of time lapsed photography, my strapping son with his sudden deep voice, ascends from the basement, his cadence in step with my husband’s size twelve shoes. Curly masculine hair surfaces his, coming of age, legs. He now stumbles to the coffee pot, like we do, at 7 am. He’s applying for college, enrolled in honors math, driving the family’s second car from 1996. It now rattles in rust, but it’s good for learning, and it wears surfing bumper stickers well. While I marvel at how he looks a little like my Dad, and more and more like his Dad—I miss the baby.
Everything, on this side of physics, has a beginning, an origin. Kind of like the mustard seed sprouting, rooting, and branching out into a flourishing tree. The seed created, is planted. In genesis, the process is a small, obscure reality—needing nourishment and protection. It’s not ready to brave storms and onslaughts. This stage is crucial. It can’t be skipped.
As a beginning writer, reaching toward intermediate, I’ve often thought, I don’t know how to improve. I can’t write any better than this! Although frustrating, I have reckoned with it somewhat. Looking back, it’s like having my first baby and with all the new demands, I couldn’t understand how anyone could manage more than one child. Then, I got pregnant again, and again. Then I saw. And as I grew as an adult, my babies learned to roll over, crawl, pull up on the sofa, and cruise. Secure in my smile and outstretched arms, they took a few shaky steps. Running came later.
Advised to write what I know, I’ll refer to the baby analogy. In the microcosmic world of diapers and midnight feedings, my presence was larger than life to my little dependents. Feelings of inadequacy, abounding, I have a reoccurring dream where I am dressed up in heels and facing starving orphans, the lot of us about to be swallowed up by a tsunami.
I’ll watch my son now at 17 as he pumps iron in the basement, grooving to a dub step sound. He mirrors a grimace of long ago, while stretching before a nap, as a toddler. I often flash back and forth between the present and those of young mothering days. His eyes still wander over his shoulder, slow—when something catches his attention. He moves with the grace of a cat, and as a baby, he’d mold over my shoulder like a kitten. He nuzzled, purred and settled me, intermittently—as I ran scattered—from laundry to kitchen to nursery.
The infant images are creased forever in the lines of my brain, and my face. I purposed at times to burn gurgled chortle and powdered skin into my memory. Again, only progress and growth—are frozen—in time.
Babies understand much more than they can express. Their vocabulary comes in fragments of ABC’s. Inchoate and adventurous, they are attracted like magnets to a challenge (we save their lives several times a day as they venture towards light sockets). Sparks fire and fuse, igniting with every sound, taste, sight, and touch. They fight for da, da—ba , ba.—ma –ma. My husband and I taught our children basic sign language we learned from a parenting class. The first expressions are table manners. “More please” was expressed with a flat palm rubbing upward from the stomach. Our cherubs said “thank you” by bringing their chubby hand up to the mouth and fanning it outward towards us, perched in a high chair. We could see the wheels turning, their want to talk and receive, bulging from their eyeballs. Then one word is formed, cup—hat—dog. It’s not long before they’re on their way, linking words together.
It’s a start.
So it is with writing.
Whether we begin penning ink in diaries as pre-teens, struggle through essays in college, or discover a means of cathartic therapy, during mid-life, bleeding through the page—it’s a start.
Like the tow-headed imp, our first steps wobble. Our sentences hold out extraneous words like hands to balance. We fall on our faces, tripping over too many adverbs and adjectives. Our dialogue is strained, like peas and carrots in a blender. Our plots and narratives are obvious—elementary. Oh hopefully, we are kind in our rearing of self, encouraged to get up, when we fall, praised in clapping hands when we take a giant leap away from the desk. We reach for validation—a ‘pick me up’. Our teachers and critics should recognize the stabilizing effect they have on our teeter totter scribble.
The babe toddles.
The babe drinks milk.
We read what feeds.
The babe fists a jumbo crayon.
And me, the grown-up, pounds keys on a laptop.
In effort and passage, the babe utters complete thoughts, dressed in scalloped collars and smocked dresses.
Striving, the writer outfits stories in buttoned outlines, trimmed sentences, lapels adorned in metaphor.
Her characters take on a life of their own, much like children. We are wise to know when to ease out the rope of independence and when to reign it back in to keep them safe and believable.
In forming writing goals, time is precious. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’m looking for audio books to boast a well- read list. It is the only way I’ll get through War and Peace by Tolstoy.
Frequenting the time out chair, I’ll meditate on the following thought in honing skills and stretching towards that ultimate goal in publishing a book:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”…. Dr. Seuss