Monday, December 07, 2009

Unfinished novels

Last month, when I was at my father's house, I stumbled across a box of pictures and papers that my mom had kept. For years, she had been asking me to help her put the pictures into albums, and for years, I managed to avoid the task. But while sitting in the loneliness of that house, I couldn't help but look in the box.

There were our baby pictures. Our school pictures. Pictures from our vacations. Pictures of my mother's travels from before she was married. A few newspaper clippings, invitations, and other scraps of paper she had kept. And at the bottom, was a red file folder, one that I had seen before.

Her novel.

Sitting in her office, surrounded by memories of her unfinished life, I couldn't bear to read it. And I don't remember having ever read it. But I do remember her telling me about it when I was a little girl, when she was first figuring out that I was a writer. How she had started writing a novel, but could never manage to get it finished -- how she started feeling that in order to write well, she needed to read more. But she also promised me that one day she would finish it and let me read it.

She never did.

That's how I saw my mother: as a reader. She read anything, everything. So I grew up in houses that were always filled to the seams with books. And I read anything, everything. Just like my mother.

And like my mother, I want to write. I have stories to tell; I have words that are simmering just below my surface, wanting to be shared. And an unfinished novel that I can never bring myself to work on, because there are so many other things to do, so many books to read.