Mothers and daughters

Dear IB,

Today especially — my first Mother’s Day — I have been thinking about my Ama. All the little memories that I have of her. All the things that my mother has told me. The small details that paint a larger picture. The stories that become legend.

You will hear about my tiny hands reaching for her as she boarded a plane back to Taiwan. The way we traded “wo ai ni”s over crackly long-distance phone calls. The disappointment on her face when I didn’t do as she asked. The crinkle of her eyes, and the softness of her cheeks.

I don’t really pray, but when I was pregnant with you, I spoke to my Ama a lot. She was a midwife for many years, and in my broken Mandarin, I asked her to help me through this, to keep you safe. I believe that she heard me. I believe that her spirit walked with ours.

Today I have also been thinking about your Ama. Everything she has done and continues to do for me, and now for you too. All the memories you will have of her. All the stories I will tell.

You will hear about her hand squeezing mine like Morse code, and me repeating the pattern back. The time she she tried to make Velveeta mac and cheese, but substituted mayonnaise for sour cream. Her exceedingly high expectations, and her unwavering support for my writing. Her love of Dairy Queen, Ralph Lauren clothing, and baby oil. Her laugh. Her art.

Part of the reason I feel that my Ama was watching over us is that your Ama happened to be visiting when I went into labor with you. Your father was away on a business trip, so without her there, I would have been alone for most of it. Instead, I had her by my side the whole time. She held my hand and fed me ice chips. She was there when you were born, and she wasn’t even mad that you stole her birthday. She said that you were beautiful.

And of course, I have been thinking about what you might one day tell your children about me. It’s hard for me to imagine you fully grown, me old and gray. But I look forward to it. I look forward to everything with you, the good and the bad. I hope you’ll have many fond memories and interesting stories of me. I’ve already got so many of you.

Love,
Your mother

And even though I taught my daughter the opposite, still she came out the same way! Maybe it is because she was born to me and she was born a girl. And I was born to my mother and I was born a girl. All of us are like stairs, one step after another, going up and down, but all going the same way.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

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Six months, a lifetime

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My little IB is 6 months old today. I don’t know where the time went.

Or maybe I do. It’s weird how time works now, at least in regards to my daughter. She is always and everything.

She is always going to be the little wiggleworm I carried inside me for nine months. She is always going to be the sillywill that chomps on our knuckles and smiles at everybody. She is always going to be the girl who asks me to French braid her hair and snuggles with us while watching football. She is always going to be the middle schooler who does homework at the kitchen counter while her dad cooks dinner. She is always going to be the teenager who I drive to soccer games and movies with her friends. She is always going to be the college student who texts instead of calls, and brings her boyfriend home for the holidays.

She is then and now and someday. Every moment all at once. Everything that has already happened, and everything that is still possible.

I didn’t know it would be like this.

It’s funny how normal, and how miraculous, this is.

 

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Quotes on love and writing

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“Love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful. [That] has to mean something.”

“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet.”

“I want to write. I want to write stories that make people feel less alone than I did. I want to make people laugh about the things in life that are painful.”

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Stuff worth reading

“Becoming a Mapbuilder” by Danielle Lazarin

What you notice as a writer isn’t an accident, nor is it objectively interesting. This sense of recognition, of compulsion toward a subject or character or storyline, is the layering of the lenses of your childhood and your adulthood, your jobs and your relationships, the series of small and large decisions we make, life’s little accidents constructing our fictions as much as they make our real lives. By indulging yourself in these raw materials, allowing them to be the match to the kindling of the world you walk through every day, you’re likely to start a story that matters to you, one that you can’t help but write, because it comes from your gut.

“The Fear of Not Saying Interesting Things” by Kimberly Bunker

For a long time I wrote because I thought of interesting things. I didn’t identify myself with it, and I didn’t think about it most of the time. As soon as I changed methods—when I started chasing after ideas, when I started “perspiring,” because that’s what real writers do—the words became more elusive. I had become a writer, but I’d changed the methods that let me write in the first place.

This isn’t to say I plan to sit around waiting for lightning to strike. It’s certainly more nuanced than that. For instance, I think it’s possible to cultivate a mindset that’s receptive to but not obsessive about ideas, and to be methodical about pursuing the ideas that seem worth pursuing—i.e., finding a balance between waiting for lightning to strike, and getting behind the mule.

GoodReads Q&A with Laini Taylor

But it boils down to priorities and believing that you deserve it. If it’s a dream of yours to write, then don’t let anybody—yourself included—diminish its importance in your life. When you’re “prepublished,” it’s hard to feel like you’re a “real writer.” It’s really hard to ask other people to prioritize and possibly sacrifice for your dream. But you have to.

“Stop Reading My Fiction as the Story of My Life” by Jami Attenberg

Fiction is a magic trick of sorts. But at its best it doesn’t just conjure up an imaginary world; it makes the real one disappear, it makes the author disappear. Only a book can do this — let you lose yourself so completely. So, if you can, forget about everything else. Just be there with the book.

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Unexpected delights

A couple years ago, Andy and I decided to get season tickets to our local Broadway series, along with another married couple we’re friends with. It’s the perfect excuse for all of us to take a step back from our busy schedules and catch up with one another, enjoy some good food, and support and appreciate the arts.

In that time, we’ve seen a lot of good shows — and a couple not-so-good ones — but there are two that I can easily single out as my favorites so far.

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Like the band Death Cab for Cutie, the musical Kinky Boots has a name that intimidated me. I was bracing myself for something very provocative and in-your-face. Instead, I found myself quickly charmed by a story about shoes, fathers, friendship, and being true to oneself.

The musical numbers are clever and catchy, and personally, I can relate to Charlie’s struggle between following his own path versus taking over the family business.

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Apparently there was a movie version first, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I love. It was available on Netflix, so I watched and liked it, but still prefer the musical.

And the whole thing is based on a true story, one that might be particularly relevant to today’s political climate: A small shoe factory in a working class English town, reluctantly partnering with a group of drag queens in the hopes of weathering an economic downturn. Hmm, what parallels could we possibly draw from that…?

The other show I’ve loved most so far is Something Rotten, a hilarious satire of celebrity culture, the writing process, and musicals themselves.

The show is full of inside jokes for a theater- and literature-loving crowd. I laughed nearly from start to finish. Shakespeare as the ultimate douchebag celebrity is hysterical, and trying to identify all the shows spoofed in the song “A Musical” is quite the game.

As lighthearted as it sounds, Something Rotten also has heart. I appreciated the brotherly bond, the sweet little romantic subplot, and the shoutout for feminism.

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