One of the things I love about being a writer is that often, I inform myself. Because the writing process has so many layers — some just below the surface of the crisp, fully conscious part of ourselves — there are times we write as much for ourselves as others. In fact, helping others through our words seems often to be the icing on the cake of an incredible process that gives us life.
I don’t want to promote writing as a selfish task, but in some ways, it just plain is. Through it, we are able to purge ourselves of the thoughts that yank at us incessantly, and we are relieved through that purging. It clears our cluttered mind to make room for more thoughts. And sometimes, others benefit too — a cause for joy. Often, though, we are the main beneficiaries.
The other day I came across this column I wrote several years ago for our daily newspaper; back when I was a regular columnist, churning out parenting thoughts routinely, and happily. Today, I appreciate even more the wisdom this column contains. The “me” of then had no idea how much the “me” of now would revel in these words. So, before I share them again, I want to say thank you to the muse who inspired this post so that I could gain from it today.
I hope you will enjoy; either for the second time, or for newer readers, the first time. It was printed in The Forum on April 27, 2010.
Parenting Perspectives: Peeking at the what-might-have-beens
By Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum
Though we’re not there just yet, the momentum toward change has begun. In anticipation, I’ve found myself startled by occasional episodes of dream-like ruminations.
I am walking hand in hand with our youngest, approaching a long hall. Light emanates from sporadic spots up ahead. Doorways, I realize.
We move forward, and though we don’t linger, we slow at each of the openings long enough to peek inside, where I glimpse moving pictures of what might have been.
In one room, I am dressed in a business suit giving a presentation to clients who sit in rapt attention. Later, I drive away in a shiny car with a sun roof, heading for my red-brick mansion on a hill. Two children, a dog and a nanny greet me at the door.
Another room has me on a plane, living the life of a travel writer. I’m off to Egypt to see the pyramids. Next week, it will be Greece, where I’ll eat my fill of souvlaki and baklava and write my next novel.
I walk farther and find myself in the English department of a university, where I am filling my students’ minds with classic texts and poems. One of them will go on to win the Pulitzer.
There are more doors filled with similar visions, all of which surprise me, not because they couldn’t have happened but because they could have. I sense I should be looking into the rooms with longing, but I’m distracted by a draft that has me searching for something warm to wrap myself in.
For one brief moment, a voice taunts: “See what you could have been, what you might have done?”
Suddenly I am aware my son has let go of my hand. I shirk the voice as I look around, panicked.
Oh, there he is! He is rushing toward me with a daffodil in his hands, its petals still folded. “Here, Mommy,” he says, reaching upward. I am thrilled to accept his spring gift.
He dashes off again, returning a few moments later, this time walking slowly as he precariously balances a glass of sloshing water. As I place the flower inside it, a look of contentment spreads across his face.
I glance behind me; the doors have vanished. Ahead, a heart-shaped door beckons us back to where we began. Its frames have been decorated haphazardly with the artwork of five children. A welcome mat below shows wear and a few stains. Loud noises come from inside – and warmth.
I’ve arrived at the place of my dreams, exactly where I was meant to be.
Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and her husband, Troy, are the parents of five children.