Lesson One about being a writer is that you should be able to admit in public over coffee that you’re writing a book.
The funny thing is I can’t say it above a whisper or while looking anyone in the eye. It’s as if the volume and eye contact is a verbal contract that I’ll finish it someday. Someone, eventually, would know that it happened and then, it would be in print forever, as if to suggest I’d be eternally bound to those opinions and that I’d have to defend them in even more public spaces in front of family and childhood friends who will always believe they knew you best and lament that you’ve “changed.”
The second funny thing is that I whisper confessions of writing among friends, too. This morning over coffee I admitted that I’m working on, not one, but two books and that one of them is a book of poems.
And why is this so hard to say? Why is it that the thing that every kid brags about and posts on refrigerator doors is something that grown, passable adults somehow must attribute to French blood or mental illness? It’s all fine and dandy to have it done and published, but to be working on a book? It somehow feels sadder than it should.
So I give myself a hard time. I’m used to having writing in progress, but I’ve suddenly come down with a bad case of being a writer in progress.
I think of awfully vain questions some days like when I will need a dot com and how many books it will take until I matter. When my mind wanders in these ridiculous ways, I bring everything to a grinding halt and thrust myself back into an actual moment with actual people.
I find someone small to celebrate.
I find someone who needs loving on.
I make soup.
On days when we’re still in our pajamas until noon, my three-year-old son invariably asks if we can make soup. So, we do. And I savor the details.
I start with swirls of olive oil to shine and pop in the silvered pot bottom. I dice onions that haven’t sprouted anything yet (the others, I count as freestyle gardening; I leave them boasting in the windowsill). We sweep them in to the pot to shine until they look like wet glass.
I mash garlic like potatoes and toss them in for a short chat with the shallots, and I splash chicken bouillon in for nothing more than the sound of the sizzle.
I add money-carrots, we call them. I cut them in coins and, because of this, we must wish on them as they fall into the pretend broth fountain. Celery follows and swims around like small green rafts for shredded chicken moving like minnows closely behind.
We hold hands over the can opener to turn and count and turn and count until the top opens, leaving us with a rinsing job that is best likened to dismantling a bomb. And the defused can of beans goes in with three hard shakes best done by my son, followed by more shakes of dried herbs as though he is overfeeding fish without the risk of anything but glory.
It simmers while we tell stories.
He asks between stories a string of questions and answers as the world’s smallest sous chef: “Is it hot? No, it’s not hot. Is it warm? It’s not warm. It’s perfect? It’s perfect.”
Yes, it’s perfect.