Little Secrets

“…anything that stretches the mind is a help to the potential author.”
— Madeleine L’Engle (A Circle of Quiet)

“Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one’s own.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own 

After last Sunday’s productive writing session I found myself looking forward to another visit to my mother’s house. It is not surprising that I wanted some time alone to write. Every writer’s heart desires the same.  There has been so little quiet or alone time in my life that I have occasionally joked that I would go stark-raving mad if I didn’t get away from the cacophony that is part and parcel of the life of a mother with many children. I learned a long time ago to get up early before the children so I would at least have some quiet time. That has helped, but there are still those distractions in the house; the computer with Internet access, the dishes in the sink, the toys taunting me from where they lay on the floor, or the child that gets up too early, like Abby did this morning. I’ll occasionally go out for breakfast and write, finding it a deliciously decadent experience, lavishing myself both with a breakfast I did not have to prepare myself, along with a healthy dose of peace.

Yes, there was that initial pang of sadness when I entered the house yesterday, that abrupt and sharp awareness that my mother is no longer physically present, but this time it faded quickly with the realization that she will always be there, within my heart. 

I set up a cozy scene on the still shiny solid wood table that I grew up with, lit a candle and put water on to boil.

Then I meandered around the house, stopping in the living room to turn on the radio.  I promised myself I would wander the rooms only as long as it took for the tea kettle to sing.  I paused at a box of hats. My mother always wore a hat when she dressed up. How many women today can pull off that look? She was quite the lady.

I wandered out to the workroom, and noticed for the first time just how many baskets she’d had. I had to smile at our similarities: I love baskets too.


I t was then I spotted a small basket with a lid. It looked vaguely familiar. Was it something she’d used when I was a child? One of her mother’s? Or had my mother bought it on one of our many garage-sale trips? What was inside? With a small anticipatory shiver, I pried the lid open, delighted at the sight of a note in her handwriting. The little basket was filled with carefully folded clippings from magazines. My siblings and I have discovered many such stashes throughout the house. My mother had ideas, hundreds of ideas, for future projects. She could have lived another 82 years and still not had the time to complete all the paintings, drawings, quilts and woodcarvings that she’d had ideas for. Her handwritten note included a small drawing of a bear’s head with directions on how to make the ears, as well as designs for a quilt with pockets that could hold little treasures. Among the clippings was a picture of a pocket on a quilt.

By this time I could no longer ignore the increasingly urgent whistling of the tea kettle, so I reluctantly left the workroom, made my cup of tea and sat down to work. And work I did. I finished a much-needed edit to the proposal I’d been certain was completed months ago. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my writing session was so productive. After all, how can a person spend time in the house of someone who was so creative and not surge with creativity themselves?

And yes, I took the tiny idea basket home.

One can never have too many ideas.

One thought on “Little Secrets

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I see the “Octopus monster” sticking out of the basket! The kids and I thought that was so funny when she showed it to us!

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