I took this photo on Sunday in the covered area next to the playground of my own elementary school. We used to play there for recess and lunch when it rained.
The murals weren’t there when I went to school. One wall has a sports-themed mural, one a fantasy-theme with dragons and serpents, and this one had undersea creatures and the tiny, Sharpie’d cry for help.
I would have done such a thing when I was in elementary school. Grade six or seven. Hand to forehead, I will not make it through this year. Help me.
The other day Arlo told me he thought he’d be an author when he grew up. I couldn’t decide whether to be fiercely proud or jealous of his surety. (When I was seven I was going to be a veterinarian when I grew up.) I pictured a long race to publication; the fifty year old woman against her twenty year old son. The sting I’ll feel when he’s on a top thirty under thirty list and I’m still slogging away at a third draft of something old and tired. Maybe I’ll write that story instead of living it.
Oof, I thought it was the sea creature who was asking for help, not the kid. Your story is much sadder…which is why the 20-year-olds shouldn’t get to have those lists, anyway. All these years of “book doctoring” (what E calls it) have taught me that you only get good at communicating the deep sadnesses of everyday life (and deep happiness, or maybe deep satisfaction) when you’re older. Over 30, sure, but more like 40s/50s/60s. I’m writing about Foer right now, and, okay, I’m kind of an asshole about this, but when you choose big historical subjects, it’s easier to make people gasp and write in the margins. I’m sure the 30 under 30s can do it, but it’s the 50 over 50s who really master the quiet, everyday.