I am a writer without a room of my own… that is, I’ve been having trouble finding a comfy spot to write from these days. Tonight, I’m in my daughter’s room as she sleeps. We’ve been trying to transition her to go to sleep by herself. She’s 6. It’s time. But, this has lead to the ridiculous practice of me singing her to sleep while I “work” on my laptop at the end of her bed. It’s ridiculous because she’s still not really putting herself to sleep (although it’s a huge bonus that she doesn’t actually have to be physically touching anyone to fall asleep) and because I don’t actually get any real work done in this position.
Nevertheless, tonight, it occurs to me that I love being in my daughter’s room. It is super cozy and quiet (except for her sleepy animal breathing) and I feel safe and calm in it; less overwhelmed and rushed and worried about what tomorrow morning is going to bring.
Lately, I’m surprised as the spaces I feel comfortable in.
Last Sunday, we took our annual trip to “Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch.” And today I bought my first pair of ice skates – hockey ice skates! – and we went ice skating for the third time already this season. I have also found myself loving – yes, deeply loving – my walks with the dog lately. We walk through Midland’s City Forest. We walk to and through Barstow Woods Park – which has been taken over by dogs and their owners. I love these activities. I love these places. I have to admit this because I’ve really been bitching about living here (not just Midland – but in mid-Michigan at all) since I arrived nearly 10 years ago.
Four (or five?) years ago when we took our kids to Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch for the first time, I could not stop laughing and marveling at how small town we had become, how pathetic our need for entertainment was that we would actually pay to visit such a place. Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch is essentially someone’s backyard turned into a make-shift “amusement” park complete with a hay ride through a badly decorated “forest,” a bouncy haunted house, hay stacks to climb on, a corn maze, overpriced donuts and cider, and… my favorite… pig races. Remember how I just said I’m a city girl at heart? Pig races. Yep, pig races.
So… this year I had to laugh at myself again. But this time I wasn’t laughing because I was so small town and pathetic that I had no choice but to bring my kids to Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch. Nope. I laughed at myself because I couldn’t wait to go. Because the hay ride and the bouncy haunted house and the overpriced cider and donuts and the pig races have all become so much a part of our fall/ Halloween ritual that we do not engage in them with any hint of irony anymore. We love it!
After a bit of running around and one trip on the hay ride, we slip over to the little food shack, buy our hot cider and one donut each then cozy up to the giant fire pit and enjoy! My daughter looks for the pumpkin princess so she can get her picture taken with her. My son inevitably asks to feed the goats then refuses to feed the goats once we’ve bought the 50 cent cup of food, so I feed the goats. We consider buying pumpkins then we remember it’s actually really expensive to buy pumpkins there so instead, on the way home, we get a great deal from a couple of young teenage girls who live on one of the back roads between Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch and our house and who have raised enough pumpkins to fill a warehouse and are selling them for $2 each. Huge, beautiful, bright orange pumpkins. $2 a piece. We’re thrilled.
And before we know it, it’s been a lovely day in Midland, Michigan. Dammit! How it pains me to admit it.
At the last Associated Writing Programs Conference I attended a few years ago in Chicago, I met a couple of typically super-hip, skinny, beautiful writers from New York. When they asked where my press was from (I was representing Binge Press at the time), I apologetically and sheepishly said, “Michigan.” One of them said, “aw, man, don’t say it like that. Be true to your school, man. Say, ‘I’m from the great state of Michigan!’” I had never considered before that there were people who didn’t think of Michigan as totally lame or even people who just didn’t know enough about any of the in-between states to know what they were like and weren’t big enough assholes to jump to the conclusion that if it’s not New York or California it must suck, or, at the very least, not matter. Even though, their point was just to say that I made it sound like it really sucked and I shouldn’t do that, they also got me thinking about what there is to appreciate about Michigan and what really does make it a pretty awesome state. I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around loving Michigan and the Michigan that’s in me (and there’s plenty of it, believe me) since that encounter.
Still… I am trying. I. Am. Trying.
Part of that trying is just an exploration of what spaces & places mean and why. Why is it so sweet and comforting and lovely to be sitting in my daughter’s room, listening to her breathe under the pink glow of her little Ikea flower nightlight? My daughter is one of the people in this world who belongs to me and to whom I belong. I think in all my searching I have found this much, we have only a little control over who we end up belonging to and who ends up belonging to us. Life unfolds too quickly – or at least mine has – to understand how or why the relationships I have (and create and nurture and hold dear) demand my body to be in a certain place at a certain time.
Wherever you are “stuck,” may you be stuck with love.