I am 3,400 km away, and my phone pings, and it’s Flora, and she writes:
Ender was being a pain in the butt so we had to lock all the doors and he escaped with Maggie so Cinder got Ender and gave him to me and he went to get Maggie so we have now locked all the doors to keep them inside
I laugh. And write,
Oh, no. But well done.
And then text Sean:
When are you coming home?
He’s five minutes away. It’s all good.
I am working out of town this week, and my village is looking after my children and my fam, and it’s okay, they’re okay, I’m okay.
Ping. It’s Flora.
We just got back from a walk at Bragg Creek we found a really cool rock
I send her a picture of me in a boardroom, surrounded by piles of papers.
This is what I did today!
(There are photos of pretty, shiny things I could send her, but I don’t want her to think I’m having too much fun without her, you know?)
She’s not impressed.
“wow so fun”
the sarcasm drips from the texted letters.
What she doesn’t know: it sort of is…
The cab driver wants to know how old my children are. “Almost 13, 10, and 5.5,” I tell him. Funny thing: I have to scrunch up my forehead to think about their “numbers,” as Ender always puts it. (Not “How old am I,” ever, but “Mom? What’s my number? How many am I?”). Ender’s number is 5, closer to 6 than to five now. And Cinder, Cinder. Almost 13. I’m about to become the mother of a teenager. How is that possible?
When I swing by his office, the ‘elder statesman’ asks me the same thing. “Almost 13, 10, and 5.5,” I say easily, prepped by the cabbie.
“Do you remember,” he says, “the first time you interviewed me, you brought your baby with you?”
“Really?” I say. “Which one?” We laugh. I think it must have been Flora. She who could not bear to be out of my arms or far from the nipple for the first three years of her life, and who thus lived in wraps and slings and puked on several Armani suites (and once in someone’s gym bag) as I went from interview to interview…
But it might have been Cinder, who had his diaper changed in dozens of Bay Street boardroom, and who once peed on my publisher’s carpet…
Gods, in this moment, I miss them so much there is a searing pain in my belly in my heart between my eyes.
But in this very next moment, life throws down the gauntlet and I leap at it, grab it, and run with it, and I am so happy, so alive, so me, I don’t even think of them at all…
A text from Flora:
3 days down! 2 to go. We miss you so much, Mommy!
The thing is—this is THE thing, THE secret—I wouldn’t be nearly as good at my job if I didn’t have them, love them, miss them. If I didn’t exist in this constant state of tension-negotiation-trepidation, if everything I did wasn’t a weighted judgement call, if my reality did not consist of consequences-chaos-choices-a-tightrope-of-demands-screw-this-I’m-taking-a-break-NOW-oh-no-I’m-not-DEADLINE… if I didn’t live at the intersection of all these frictions, fragments, conflicts… I wouldn’t be the writer I am.
(Nor the type of mother I am, for better or for worse.)
I wouldn’t think the way I do, negotiate the way I do, perform the way I do…
The tension, the chaos, the anxiety are my fuel as much as they are a challenge, an obstacle and a distraction.
Sometimes, there’s too much…
…but when there’s nothing? When it is all calm and tranquil?
Flat, unmotivated, unmoving, unproductive.
Up at 5 a.m., in cab by 5:30, boarding by 6:20. Caffenaiting. Meeting one, two, three, four. Yawn. More coffee. Run. Think. Juggle. Ping.
Good morning, mom.
Good morning, little love. Look at the view from my “office” today!
Meeting five, six. I am running a marathon, I am adrenaline, I am so exhausted, watch me collapse—I would draw a bath but I’m worried I might be so tired I might drown in it, ah,screw it, I’ll probably live.
They will all be waiting for me at the airport, and I will drown in their love.
I will be exhausted. But also: motivated, moving, productive.
Juggling. Always juggling. Appreciating, celebrating the tension, the chaos, the anxiety as my fuel. And dancing on the tightrope.
For a while, anyway.