Anticipation, 24 x 39, collage on Masonite board
Elizabeth W. Seaver
I gave Maisie a besotted mother smile, the one we have before the reality of spit-up, poop, sleepless nights and talking back truly sets in. If you have enough actual distance from those good old days, it's easy to look back on them fondly. I'd always heard that the mind is a compassionate organ, now I know what that means. The spit-up, talking back, etc., fades and is replaced with the memory glow of warm, sweet-smelling, relaxed baby weight in your arms. Maisie is in that honeymoon phase with her potential chick, taking just a moment to rest her "sitter" before she gets back to tedious process of incubation.
I'm not a nostalgic person. I have always said I live firmly in the present. I don't think the past is better, or the future. I don't spend lots of time talking about how great high school was or wonder what happened to that old boyfriend. I even listen to top 40's music, to the complete embarrassment of my children (indie music mavens), but I believe something in my world has shifted. And I'm afraid I've pinpointed what it is.
I have more past in my past than future in my future. It is so strange. I try to write a story, and it's often about someone my age or older. I try to write some sort of adventure, and an event that really happened to me stands right in the middle of what I had planned to be great modern fiction.
My new realization was really brought home when I read a story at my writing group, recently. It was about traveling on family vacations when my brother, sister and I were small. For two of the group, I had written a funny, "universal" story--can you guess how old they are? To the two members who are 18 and 20-something, I suspect my tale was like some distant, dry, slightly out of focus account from a history book--vintage, but not in a cool way. Crickets chirped when I finished. A car with no air-conditioning? No seat belts? No dvd player in the back seat to entertain the restless? No laughing from that quarter.
So it caused me to ponder: Should I find some way to make my stories appealing to all ages with language and images? Can I do some research to see whether I'm stuck in old lady story/vintage land or whether I can somehow airlift myself into the 21st century? Or maybe, no upheavals are required just yet. I will continue finding the rhythm of my writing and see what happens.
There's one more possibility, which if a writer has enough ego, usually ends up being the last thing she'd ever consider. It's just possible that my story wasn't very good.
And that, my friends is what writing groups are for!