The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Mom Tries to Retreat

I spent the first day of my writer's residency settling into Jacqueline Mitchard's home on Cape Cod.  It was a beautiful fall day and I could see the leaves beginning to turn shades of red and orange from my bedroom window overlooking the garden. 

I had ten days to write without distractions or responsibilities.  My two adult daughters, ages twenty-three and twenty-four, were taking care of the house and cats.  I no longer had to worry about underage drinking brawls if I was away from home.  It seemed about as good as it gets.

For the first twenty-four hours everything I did was a "pinch me" moment: from writing at my desk in my cozy bedroom to walking down the streets of Brewster with my housemate, Sarah, an eighty-year old retired journalist from Wisconsin.  This was her first experience, also with time alone to write. Before becoming a grandmother, she had been a working single mom like myself.

The second day I was there I got a call from my daughter, Annie,

"Mom, there's a problem with the sewer line."

I'm stunned. For a moment I don't even know what to say. Finally, I manage to ask, "What do you mean?"

"Mom!  I can't deal with this now."

I can't either, I think.

"I'm taking the GRE exam tomorrow…"  She continues talking so fast I can't understand her. I feel myself returning to mom mode.

"Annie, slow down a minute.  Now tell me what happened, s-l-o-w-l-y."

"Our neighbor called to say that our sewer line is leaking into their yard and they've called a plumber."

"OK, can you get the name of their plumber?  Then call our handyman."

"Wait, our neighbor's calling on the other line."  Annie clicks out and I'm left trying to console myself that I can't do anything about this from three thousand miles away.

Five minutes later Annie calls back.  "I'm taking the day off work and re-scheduling my exam.  I'll deal with this."  Click. She hangs up again before I can say anything.

I'm standing in the kitchen with Sarah. It's 10 a.m. EST.  It's 7 a.m. back home in California.  I'm not going to write today with visions of my house flooding.

"Sarah, want to go visit that town, Chatham?"

"Sure." As a journalist I figure she knows how to adapt to life's emergencies. Sarah and I spent the afternoon strolling through the town’s quaint streets while I took calls on my cell with my daughter's latest update.  By 6 p.m. EST, Sarah and I were sitting in a bar sipping wine when I got the final verdict on the sewer.

"Mom, the sewer line connecting our house to the street is broken and needs to be replaced.  I negotiated a pretty good price with one of the plumbers."

"How'd you know to negotiate with them?  I wouldn't have thought to do that."

"Well, I figured since each plumber was giving me a different estimate, I could negotiate." 

For the first time that day I could breathe more easily. I was reminded that Annie was perfectly capable of handling a crisis, especially one like this; as a scientist she could actually understand the sewer problems and as a world traveler she knew how to negotiate for services.

I guess I had to leave home to see home more clearly. 

My daughter had grown up, almost.

While she managed the sewer problem, I still had to pay for it.

Sarah and I drove back to our home in Brewster. Tomorrow I'll write.

By Marilee Stark

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