Almost there! I will keep posting an excerpt until I reach December, the final month of 2021, the year this project covers. I’ve been playing around with structure, how to put together the pieces. Will this collection really work as an essay per month? Probably not. I have too many themes to write about to shoehorn them all into one essay per month. I think it will work when broken into seasons, itself something that works with the seasons of life themselves being an ever-present theme in the writing. In any case, it has been an extremely fulfilling project to work on this year and it has given me a pile of material to work with, 21,000 words from which to pull and mould and sculpt something that speaks to a mid-thirties year in the life of a foreign mum in a pandemic. Or something like that.
I have had the opening of October’s writing for months. It’s this beautiful moment I had with my son while we were in Denmark. I just haven’t known what to do with it, where to go with it. Then, on the weekend, my brain made a connection (while listening to the Encanto soundtrack, aren’t brains funny) and I think I know where I’ll take it. I think I know into what it fits.
In any case, here’s October’s excerpt.
At some point, towards the end of our week in Denmark, my son looks at the North Sea, driven wild by wind, the water like piano keys under a mad pianist and says, ‘it looks like music.’ He does that. Once he bobbed in the Baltic and said, happily, ‘it’s like being a Playmobil person in the bath.’ Another time he watched a small friend of his wrestle his big sister and said, ‘it’s like a tiny ant fighting a huge human.’ Impressed by this poetic command of the world around him, I googled kids and similes only to find it’s fairly common. (One’s child is always a genius, though.) I find myself, in this stage of parenting, trying to shrink to see the world how they do. I am so used to reaching my adult conclusions in three seconds, turning left and right, ignoring that door, but opening the other one, leaping over that creek, and then that bridge, that I forget I have 36 years of practice. My children are at the beginning of unravelling this world. Thousands of their neural connections have already been laid, their brains electric and abuzz from the get go, but their stock of assumptions is much smaller than mine, they don’t have the stepping stones. But, to watch the North Sea cast into ribbons on a blustery Ocotber’s day and call it music – that’s more than I could ever do.
I spend a lot of my time immersed in language, hence my ears pricking up at my son’s use of similes. It’s my day job at the uni, it’s my night job as a writer, it’s my maternal job as my children’s source of English. I came to language learning as an adult, having never been particularly interested in it at school. I was deeply interested in English and my job remains tethered to it entirely, but save for compulsory French and Latin, the latter of which bore my adolescent socks off, I remained uneducated in the system of languages until I washed up in Germany wanting to teach English.