Last month, we invited readers to share their responses to a writing prompt inspired by Victoria Livingstone’s Exhaustion and Rest: Motherhood and Creativity and Linda Collins’s Write of Passage: Telling a Daughter’s Story. We asked, “Has motherhood impacted your creativity in unexpected ways? Has observing your children’s approach to life or listening to their comments about it changed your focus?” Below is Andrea Isiminger’s response.
An Audience of One
My body still remembers the weight of Jess’s toddler frame, encircled by my arms, perched atop his brother’s baby bump. We looped through the rooms in our apartment as he tirelessly pointed to objects, wanting to know their names. Ten floors above Arcos Street in the Belgrano neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Jess and I communicated in Spanish. Our long-term plan was to live near my husband’s family in Spain. Concentrating on one language seemed like the best way to keep my learning curve in motion.
“Música,” I said, turning up the volume on a María Elena Walsh children’s song. “Ca,” Jess responded with a smile.
Although it was peculiar to hear Jess repeat only a portion of a word, it didn’t raise any red flags. I was a new mother as well as an only child with no vast reserve of experience to draw on.
We were several years away from the neurologist explaining the findings of the MRI, pointing out the section of Jess’s brain where the corpus callosum hadn’t developed correctly. And much more time would pass before we understood the extent of our son’s intellectual disability. But despite the many ways his disorder affected his life, including the ability to communicate clearly, the one thing that would never change was Jess’s love for words.
Jess’s hand darts out to snatch my Chance card in Monopoly so he can read it to me. Throughout the day, he’ll bombard us with questions since the art of true conversation eludes him. During quieter moments, Jess diligently makes lists and copies information on favorite topics from books and the internet. If he bursts into a room with “a gift for you,” he likely has a folded piece of paper containing a lovingly crafted note hidden behind his back.
I envy the ease with which he accepts that his dedication to words is simply a part of his being.
I’ve spent my life attributing value to my relationship with words. My bachelor of arts in English provided a college degree; editing jobs produced money. Even when I began writing for pleasure, I searched for and submitted to contests and anthologies. I reveled in the power of having “a voice,” but that was only after others had recognized its worth by publishing my essays.
During downtimes in my writing I’ve felt the call of the page, but my progress is often impeded by the question, “To what end?” The surfer runs towards the crash of the waves; the hiker responds when nature beckons. However, I’ve never stopped to ask myself why my hobby should be different—why I’ve always felt it necessary to produce something for an audience larger than myself.
Of course, it’s important to have goals and ambitions. On the other hand, centering oneself, bringing peace to the soul in a chaotic world is no small task either. I used to write at the kitchen table in order to simultaneously finish the laundry or save the spaghetti sauce from burning. Recently, I’ve moved to a vacant bedroom where I can close the door and create or daydream or hear Jess in similar pursuits on the other side of the wall. Both of us bathing in our own forests of words. The letters falling from fingertips like raindrops awakening our spirits.
Andrea Isiminger lives near Madrid, Spain where she tries to balance exercise, family, reading and writing. She’s thankful for publications like Literary Mama that provide inspiration and a safe place for sharing. Gratitude also goes out to her book club and those wonderful women who encourage her to expand her horizons and powers of observation.