I’m at the park with my kids. They’re happily doing what my son calls “double dides” down the twisty slide: they lie down side by side and speed to the bottom.
I sit on the edge of the sandbox with a group of other moms. They’re talking about a sale on packaged something-or-other at Costco. I’m only half-listening. A little fish of an idea has just darted into my mind, pulling an entire sentence in its wake. I see it form, and know that this is what I’ve been waiting for, working for, struggling for, the desperately needed transition for that troubled paragraph in chapter two of my book.
The fish is swimming away. I try to hold it in my mind as I dig in my daughter’s diaper bag for a pencil and note card.
“Kimberlee,” one of the other moms calls to me, “what are you doing?”
“I’m writing,” I say. I look down at the note card. It’s blank. So is my mind. Next time, I tell myself, I’ll have a net at the ready.
I’m chopping onions to make pasta sauce. The chk-chk-chk of the chef’s knife as it thunks into the cutting board reminds me of something, I’m not sure what. I keep chopping, and waiting for the thought to materialize. It does, shimmering in my mind like a salmon.
I ignore my son’s call, drop the knife on the counter, and rush to my desk. I don’t want this one to get away.
Jack runs into the kitchen. “Mama!” I pick up a pen and start scribbling as fast as I can. “Mama!”
A thud interrupts my thoughts, followed by a piercing wail. “What was that?” I push past Jack to get to the kids’ room. Jane is lying on the floor, crying. “What happened?” I say.
“She was standing on the Lego bin,” Jack says. “I told her not to. But she didn’t listen to me.”
I pick Jane up and shush her. When she’s calm, I set her down, return to the kitchen, and stare down at the sheet of paper on my desk. Whatever brilliant thought I’d had, it’s gone now. I pick up the knife and resume chopping.
Finally, the kids are in bed. My husband is giving them last hugs and cuddles, and I am sitting at my desk, grateful for the end of the day and the chance to write uninterrupted. I open my half-finished Word doc and begin to type, the words flowing from my fingertips onto the screen. Tonight, I have a keeper.
I can hear the conversation in the bedroom. “Can I have my flashlight back?” Jack asks his dad. (During God-blesses he shined his flashlight in my eyes, and Doug took it away from him.)
“Sure,” Doug says, “I’ll be happy to give it back to you in the morning.”
Two glass-shattering shrieks follow this revelation. Then come the tears. My daughter, frightened by Jack’s shrieking and crying, begins to scream and cry, too.
After two minutes of escalating hysteria, I get up and go help my husband with damage control.
I sit at the computer and stare at what I wrote half an hour ago. I have no idea where I was going with it, or what to write next. My third little fish of the day has disappeared into the murky deep, leaving me holding an empty net. I sigh, wondering if my little fishes will come back. But even if they don’t, even if I only catch every fourth or fifth idea, every tenth sentence, I have to do this. Unless I write, I’m not me.
I begin typing again.