As of this time tomorrow we can tally up six years of life for Elder Girleen! Six years of parenthood for the Husband and myself! Almost three years of sisterhood for Younger Girleen! The world spins on its axis, time moves inexorably forward. Life is good.
When Elder Girleen turned one, I started a ritual, which was to write her a birthday letter every year. This makes me sound like I have my shit together a lot better than I actually do, in fact, it almost makes me sound like one of those uber-moms you read about in magazines or crafty blogs who do beautiful and meaningful things for and with their kids while the rest of us are down in the weeds wiping snot-nosed faces and wondering what happened to our youths (or putting together homemade valentines all alone while the kids who were supposed to benefit from the project pull the cat’s tail out of boredom).
So just in case you’re forming that kind of opinion about me from reading this, just remember that this too is a narrative, and think upon the pristine surface it displays.
Most years, I read over the birthday letter I’ve just written and cringe, because it sounds so silly. But with time, everything acquires a lovely patina. And because of that, and because virtual space has become such a good way to document and save and organize things, I was tempted to use this space as the piece of paper this year’s letter is written on.
But then, on second thought…
What you write to your first born and what you write for posterity and what you write for a blog are all very different things. Right now I”m doing some freelance work that involves reading a lot of personal essays or manifestos or … I’m not sure what you’d call them… (and I won’t be any less vague than that) and — talk about the Wry Jocularity School of Parenthood Writing!!!
Maybe it’s not just parenthood that lends itself to such a genre: all the essays I’m reading right now are pretty wry and jocular. And there’s a time and a place for that, but …. you got to be careful about these things.
I’m sure there are many social, political, and aesthetic reasons why Wry Jocularity (I know I’m just as guilty of it as the next mom, so I”m not throwing stones!) has become such a cultural shorthand, but I think I’d have to put the “internets” at the top of the list as a factor.
Anything written for online consumption is, rather overtly or not, addressed to some collective but nebulous “we.” And just as you’d probably narrate a story differently for a group of people gathered within earshot at a cocktail party than you would for your best friend, narrative undergoes a seachange once it becomes blog fodder.
This is not necessarily bad. I love the various blogs I visit or stumble upon and I’m finding that having one myself has jump-started my creative life in a lot of ways.
But the heartfelt letter addressed to one person, the short stories… I hope they won’t become the babies thrown out with the bathwater as we move toward spending more and more of our lives online.
Indeed. I’m hoping too our own kids won’t be reading our words to them online. There is something powerful about seeing something written in one’s own handwriting. When I find things from my dad, in his own beautiful engineer’s script, it makes me cry knowing that was his hand that stroked those letters onto that very piece of paper.
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