Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lost Words

Lost Words by Janet Sobczyk, 2016ⓒ

Oh, how I regret the years I didn’t write.

They flew by,

one calendar page after another,

too busy raising a family to put thoughts on paper.

Mom enjoyed stories about my family life,

so like hers, yet different.

I don’t know how you do it all, she’d say.

I’d wondered the same about her.

We shared stories on the phone over too-long of a distance.

She’d laugh, empathize,

encourage me to write them down.

But I didn’t.

Now her voice is gone. 
I still long to pick up the phone, still have stories to share.

Before my voice is silenced, too,

it’s time to write them down.

As a young mother, my creativity found expression in several ways. I snapped photographs to capture my babies’ growth, documented their milestones, cross-stitched pictures for their walls, decorated hand-made cakes for their birthdays, and sewed Halloween costumes. Those things were enjoyable because I needed to be creative to be happy. And somehow they seemed important, for my children's sake.

The writer inside me also wanted quiet time to record the funny stories and cute things they said. But the time never came. There was always another load of laundry to do, or meal to make, or carpool to drive. And it was seldom quiet. Exhaustion at the end of the day prevented writing when the kids were in bed. Getting up earlier to write didn’t even cross my sleep-deprived mind.

During the years when Facebook was in the distant future, I told my stories of raising five children to mom on a corded phone. I enjoyed making her laugh, and she lifted my spirits. She always said, “You should write a book!” 

I didn’t believe anyone (but her) would want to read my stories. After all, everyone has their own. There’s nothing special about mine. There are plenty of books on the shelves of libraries and stores. Why create another one to gather dust?

One random decision changed my thinking about writing. I decided to return to college!

While working full time, I enrolled in night classes. The biggest challenge was finding time to do the homework. Usually my best quiet time was between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.  Raising babies had prepared me to be awake in the middle of the night. 

With an Associate’s Degree in Journalism from my youth, I found it easy to write the required research papers. I could also manage deadlines well. Motherhood had taught me something about time management.

A Literature class inspired me to write poetry, which I hadn’t attempted since my teen years. It opened the door to a type of creativity that I had buried long ago. Eventually I entered the college’s writing contest, and placed first in two categories!

One of my daughters set up a blog, and showed me how to post my growing collection of poems. Soon I added photos and descriptions to provide background. 

Eventually I started submitting poems to magazines and contests, with mild success.  Now I can even visualize a self-published collection of my memoir poetry.

Writing poetry has led me to children’s stories, and to articles about parenting. One project seems to inspire another one. So I just keep making time to write, to follow the ideas as they come, enjoying where the process takes me.

I’ve learned that I am a writer, even if that is not how I earn my living. I have a reflective nature and tend to see and experience life in the context of stories and images. I always have been a writer, even during the years when I didn’t write. My creativity came out in other ways, but the desire was always there. It’s who I am.

But I also realize, after losing my mother, that my time for writing is limited. No one is guaranteed a long, healthy retirement to tackle a lengthy bucket list. Saving writing for those “golden years” is just procrastination. All anyone has is… now.

In the end, written words are what will be left of me. I can only guess who may be touched by them. Perhaps my children as they read and remember who I was, and how much I loved them. Or a great-great granddaughter who may glimpse the past through the window of my book of poetry. Or maybe a busy mom who recognizes herself in my poems about motherhood in an old magazine. 

Or maybe no one. Maybe my stories won’t matter to anyone but myself. But I am a writer, and that is reason enough for me.