Saturday, July 13, 2013

Werewolf Mother

This is how it starts:

Foam around the mouth
A wild look in the eye 

Your mind—and hands—are racing. There’s fire in your belly. You HAVE WRITTEN A SENTENCE. You are WRITING. It is a GODDAMN MIRACLE. You have cut through the first flaky layers to the tough rich underbelly. You are in the blood and guts. You have hit the core. You can finally breathe with all of your body. Your senses are charged, alert. Your eyes are blood red. A bit of flame shoots out of your left nostril. And the next sentence you write is even better than the last.   

You don’t know where you are or where you are going but you do know you've left everything familiar behind. You're flying. You're ready to rip flesh with your teeth and you do-- but with your fingers, on the keyboard. Dialogue is coming and strong active verbs. You relish your hairy knuckles, your broad, hairy chest. They make you one with the jungle, the jungle that is emerging on the page in a world you have created. Possibilities are endless. You have lost all fear. Anything can happen and anything will. Until you look up.

It’s 2:23. Time to pick your second grader up from the bus stop. You throw on your shoes and run out the door. If only you’d had time to put on lipstick, clean the house and bake a few dozen cookies, perhaps your transition back to mother may have been complete. But no, he’ll have to see you with the wild look in your eye, the bit of foam left on your lip. You needn't worry, however. Talking to the other moms at the bus stop makes the transition complete. Just looking at them reminds you there are things to think about besides the jungle beast you've discovered how to become.

And those are the good days.

“Just because it’s the end of school doesn't mean it’s the end of the world.” That’s what I kept telling myself during the avalanche of the spring that catapulted me into the swamp of summer, this land in time where the days are no longer my own. I told a friend we should hold a memorial service for our former lives, when the mornings were crisp and the children were gone and we could travel to that wild place inside of ourselves without the constant threat of having to make someone else a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My friend tells me it’s OK to feel this way, that it’s normal. That it’s the way of the artist, the writer, the creative person who also happens to parent on a regular basis. “We’re hot house flowers,” she tells me. She wouldn't like me any other way, she adds.

Still, I berate myself for being a horrible, wretched, ungrateful loser who whines about the very things she’s been blessed with. I wanted to be a mother my whole life long and after 6 miscarriages I should know better than to take the honor of raising my son for granted. Not to mention he happens to be the most brilliant, beautiful boy in the world. Remembering that, however—if I haven’t been writing-- helps for approximately 5 seconds per day.

And so far this summer I have been defiantly not writing. My manuscript needs to breathe between drafts and the magazine that carried my column was cancelled. Of course the only one I’m actually hurting is me. No one else suffers when I place myself on hold. It's me who feels like I’m swimming in the shallow end of the pool where the water is hot, stagnant and full of pee. But I've been holding back from diving deeper, certain I’ll be pulled back up before I can grab the buried treasure. So I've stayed away from the deep, dark waters, the temptation to submerge and I've looked instead for surface things to do, kicking at the trash pooled in the swirling eddies that leaves a mucky film around my ankles.

A few solid weeks into summer while sitting in my lap, intent on researching every song Weird Al Yankovic ever sang, my son and I swirled down the internet rabbit hole until we landed on Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  “You don’t know how to be a mother,” he said suddenly, turning around to look at me. “You only know how to be a werewolf.” My jaw dropped. I had never told him my “Werewolf/Mother Theory.” I had only told my friend, and together we had howled—with laughter. Maybe my transitions between writer and mother are a little less smooth than I’d thought.  

Then I had to remind myself that I wrote fiction for the first time since college when I was pregnant with him. That I floundered through my first interviews and articles for publication while he grew fat in my belly, was handed my first feature article in the hospital bed the day after he was born, was offered a regular writing job the first week we were home. That I called him “my writing baby,” nursing him at the keyboard and in my writing group. That the world of motherhood and the world of creation were not so separate then. That they merged—milk and blood and shit and sleeplessness and words and love beyond reason—all a part of the wonder of making something from nothing. If I can remember that now, maybe retracting my fangs and talons will hurt just a little bit less.


  1. The world of motherhood and the world of creation are one and the same. I love this piece, Valley. So much wisdom here.

  2. Wonderful piece to read during the long full moonless summer vacation.

  3. Brilliant Val!

    (SIX miscarriages? Gees.)