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 Rachel Neverall’s response.
The Color of Frost
I huff as I approach the car and notice the frost covering the windshield. I fling open the door, jam the key into the ignition, and crank the defrost to max. I try the wipers, hoping I can just wipe away the frost and move on with our morning. They refuse to comply.
I don’t have time for this, I roar inside my head, not this frozen windshield or this tedious chore. This was supposed to be my morning to write, to craft something, anything, from the thoughts that swirl in my head in the moments when my hands are too busy to pick up a pen. Instead I’m spending my precious minutes as a chauffeur for my child’s pursuits. On this frigid morning, the dreams of my own feel as far off as the first spring thaw.
Scraper in hand, I slam the door and exit the car. I begin to hack at the windshield—and my anger—through the layer of ice. I want to swipe away the frost like I might do with a spatula to a bowl of cake batter. The grooves on the scraper leave lines like barbed wire across my window. It’s as if I am using a fork to scrape up the batter, a useless endeavor. A finger would be more effective, and taste better.
Resigned to my poorly designed tool, I make my way to each window. Eventually I notice an ease to my effort. Maybe the defrost is finally warming up the windows. Or maybe I am calming down. Either way, the fog of my own frustration clears, too. When I get back into the car, the sun shines into the window, illuminating the icy pieces I scraped off. They rest in the crack between the car hood and the window like delicate coconut curls.
We drive down the road and while the shavings bounce off the car, their memory stays with me.
“Mom, you know what I have been thinking?” My seven year old interrupts my thoughts. I look up into my rearview mirror in surprise, suddenly remembering I’m not alone. I see the icy curls again, this time in the hair framing her face. Light bounces off of her face.
“I’ve been thinking about writing.”
My ears perk up with that last word.
“I’ve been thinking that kids are probably better writers than grown ups.”
“Oh really. Why do you say that?” I try not to show I’m offended.
“I just think kids are so much closer to their memories than grown ups. Because it’s happening right now. We can be more colorful with our descriptions.”
I get chills with her analysis, and the use of that word “colorful.” I want my life to be colorful, too.
“Maybe you’re right. I worry about this sometimes. I worry I will forget things. That I’ll be too busy in the moment to pay attention.”
I look back through my mirror to see her gaze out the window. She remains quiet, watching the icy road, turning over what she wants to say before speaking again.
“I don’t know. I think if the emotion is strong enough, you’ll remember it.”
I think of the coconut curls, the evolution of my frosty morning, her words. I want to hurry home to write about this, to keep the color of this memory with my daughter fresh. The scarcity of time to collect words haunts me, as if the moments might bounce and melt away from my grasp.
But what if she’s right? Maybe these simple moments aren’t wasted or tedious but rather just another color on my canvas, if only I remember to pay attention. Notice how you feel, she begs of me—the anger, curiosity, awe, relief. For it’s the emotions that turn a moment into a story, a story too colorful to forget.
Rachel Nevergall lives in Minnesota with her husband, Mike, and three children. She is the curator of family adventures, lover of library books, mixer of fancy cocktails, and writer in the in-between. She shares her stories as a regular contributor at Twin Cities Mom Collective, Coffee+Crumbs, The Kindred Voice Magazine, and Kindred Mom, amongst others. Connect with her at RachelNevergall.com and on Instagram @rachelnevergall.