I was overpowered by New Year Mania and spent last week having my oldest daughter’s room painted, which somehow led to an entire overhaul of my living room/writing lair.
In the process of digging out my old desk, I came across a few things that made the whole back-breaking process worthwhile.
The first was my mother’s plane ticket from Cuba, dated May 19, 1960 and her subsequent application for citizenship to the US. I had stored them after discovering them in a box last fall when I was closing her condo in Florida. The documents made me wonder what she was thinking all those years ago on the verge of losing her country, and though it wasn’t known to her yet, on the verge of losing her husband, too. I’ve decided to have the pieces framed and put over my desk. My family’s story in this country began with what felt like a disaster to her, and my story as a writer and as a woman begins with her long journey to survive.
The second treasure has to do with dreams – and grit. Several years ago, when I wanted desperately to be a full-time writer but lacked the courage to do it, I found an exercise in one of those awful self-help books. I was asked to write a paragraph that described what I wanted my future “author’s life” to look like. I remember feeling embarrassed to jot down such dreams. I braced myself for the fact that I would probably never have the chance to “write from my desk at home” and “produce books that made me feel proud.” Who was I to want such grand things, and how on earth was I going to cobble together a career as a writer? When I came upon the exercise buried in one of my old desk drawers, I was shocked to see that a lot of what I once thought impossible has slowly come to be.
So, here I am, writing from a newly moved and polished table in my living room, where I work on books that name the experience of growing up. I’m part of my city’s writing community, and my books are earning lovely honors. I don’t know if it matters that I wrote my heart’s true wish down. But somewhere along the line, I must have decided to get past my fears – just as my mother did all those years ago.
In 2014, I’m wishing you the same courage, maybe even the same cheesy exercise. I’m wishing you people who leave lasting, if imperfect, imprints. I’m wishing you the power of dreams.