It was one of those nights that stands out and can inspire for days, months, who knows…even years. I had put the event on my Facebook calendar at least a month in advance.
In conjunction with the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference being held in Chicago, Literary Mama editors and columnists were having a reading at an independent bookstore. I even put it on my computer calendar, I was determined to go and nothing was going to stop me from going.
Well nothing was going to stop me, but me. I was feeling down last Friday and after weeks of eying the event on the computer, I decided I didn’t want to make the 20-mile trek to the bookstore. I had a dozen excellent excuses, like staying home and getting some things done (not sure what things and they never get done). Like many times before I was talking myself out of getting out there and meeting people. It’s just so much easier to just slip on some pajamas and fall into someone else’s reality on TV. Yet, at the last minute I forced myself to get dressed and told my husband, after changing my mind a dozen times, that I was in fact going out.
My mom, who now lives with us, suggested I invite my husband to go with. My four-year-old son miraculously agreed that he would be fine with Grandma, and he would let her put him to bed. In shock, I invited my husband to join me, he agreed, and we set off across Chicago to the quaint neighborhood of Andersonville.
My husband was relieved that there was another man in the audience, and the “mamas” were a friendly bunch. It was an intimate gathering of about 20 people. One by one different “literary mamas” took the stage and read their work.
It was truly amazing to hear these women, these mothers, talk about their struggles and triumphs with children, parents, partners, the world, and even themselves. I was already captivated by their written words, and now hearing their powerful words in their own voices, was all the more moving. The essay read by Susan Ito especially encouraged me. She writes a regular column at Literary Mama called “Life in the Sandwich,” which she explained follows the adventure of her family since her elderly mother moved in. Personally, my dad who is 90 and my mom who is 82 recently moved in with us in our “cozy” house. Ito’s experiences in her piece entitled “McMemories” were mirrors to my own.
After the reading, I bought a book I couldn’t afford (unfortunately I couldn’t buy all of the books by the group), and my husband and I went to find a place to eat. We got a delicious pizza and calamari at a charming restaurant on the corner, where we discussed the readings and my own writing projects. It was a real adult date, something that has been rare in the past four plus years.
You must check out the website of Literary Mama (“the magazine for the maternally inclined”) if you haven’t already. And the many books that members of this group has generated such as The Maternal Is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change, Literary Mama: Writing for the Maternally Inclined, A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption, Real Life & Liars (forthcoming novel by Kristina Riggle) and Mama, PhD: Women Write about Motherhood and Academic Life.