It really looks like autumn now; my husband’s grapevine is a spindly vine crawling along our white back fence, a few golden leaves still clinging. The apricot trees are mostly branches, bright yellow leaves in clumps on the green grass. Sky is gray, air is heavy, but because this is California, oranges on our trees are nearly ripe. It’s a strange combination as my seventh NaNoWriMo chugs into the station, a month-long experiment winds down; just how many words can fall onto a document (or two) amid birthdays, Thanksgiving, and the tightening National Football League picture.
Yes, November is a busy month, and has been since 1988; my husband had been celebrating his birthday long before that year, but our eldest was just days old on Thanksgiving ’88, and I didn’t have to lift a finger, other than to hoist her in my arms. Eighteen years later, she mentioned a writing competition. In 2006, another activity was thrown into the November maelstrom, and my life was never the same.
It was far cooler, and definitely more blustery, in Yorkshire for my first NaNo. But today looks similar to those past moments, also to the day we took our firstborn home from hospital. We were living in California at the time, where I grew up, where summers are scorching, winters colder than Silicon Valley, but not frigid like Britain. At twenty-two, I was diving into motherhood with youth’s enthusiasm and energy. At forty, when I was tackling my first NaNo, I was still flush with heady excitement; here I was, writing a novel, no way dude!
Six years, and six NaNo’s later, I’m a little weary. I didn’t sleep so well last night, and woke to my youngest sick. She’s twenty, but might as well be six, something she ate last night not settling well. I’ve had two wordy days with the novel, wasn’t sure what today would bring. I will finish it tomorrow, come heck or high water. But instead of jumping right into it first thing this morning, I was pouring apple juice (don’t forget the bendy straw), making sure my little girl wasn’t dehydrated. I think she’s asleep, no retching coming from her room, or texts asking for more juice. (The magic of technology; she doesn’t even need to holler, just send an electronic message to mum.) Things have changed drastically from 1988 to 2006 to 2012, but some haven’t altered one iota; I’m still someone’s mother. Back in 1988, I probably wasn’t thinking about writing books, but I did want to write. In 2006, with teenagers, my time was slowly becoming more my own, and novels started falling like English rain. Now I’m in a funny place, California in autumn, where precipitation seems like a gift. Where novels continue to percolate, but their purpose has moved into another gear. I spent my twenties having kids, my thirties raising them. My forties have been about books, motherhood a transitory job that gets dusted off for the big moments like weddings and puke-fests. This morning, handing my sick child her juice, I was again Mommy, as if today wasn’t 2012, not quite 1988 either; maybe 1993, 1996, 1999. Or maybe it is today, 29 November 2012, what the calendar on my monitor says, as well as the one hanging in the kitchen. Some things change, some never do.
How many more Novembers will heave with birthdays, football, holidays, and National Novel Writing Month? All of them, God willing.