I listened as Jackie prefaced her statement as I so often did, “I don’t have children, but…”
As a fifty-two year old woman who has chosen not to have children, I find I’m reluctant to say anything much about children with the disclaimer. I’ve always felt like I don’t really have a right to even have opinions when it comes to children. Always, in the back of my mind is the voice saying, “how would you know?” The only time I feel justified to have an opinion about children is if the conversation relates to the fact that I once was a kid.
And as much as I love all my animals, I’ve never been one to think of them as children. Maybe because I never wanted children, but I’ve always wanted animals.
If there’s one thing in my life that I come the closest to thinking about as my children, it’s my art.
The seeds of my art, ideas and feelings, gestate inside of me then are birthed in my studio. We work together, sometimes me dictating what will happen next, sometimes the creation itself making the decisions. And when it’s done, I send it out into the world to live its life.
I’ve heard other artists refer to their work in the same way. Even artists who have children. Of course, it’s more symbolic, more metaphor than actual. I mean, I sell my art, not something I would do with a kid.
So when Jackie sat at the table in Jon’s writing class, with her first book of poetry, surrounded my many women who had actual children, and said, “I don’t have children, but my book is like a child to me.” I knew just what she meant. Not only the book/kid part, but the I don’t have children but, part too.
And it’s strange, but ever since Jackie showed me a copy of her book a few days before, I had this really strong feeling that I was its godmother. I have no idea where this feeling came from or even what it meant.
I didn’t really have anything to do with the book, except in the form of encouragement. When I asked Jackie to read some of her poems at the Bedlam Farm Open House, we both thought it was a good idea for her to have a book to sell there too. And Jon and the writing class were as supportive and encouraging as I was.
Maybe it has something to do with me and Jackie both not having actual children, but both of us being able to see our work as our children. That understanding between us. But there’s also the fact that Jackie kept her writing to herself for most of her life. And I know know what it means to be silent for so long and then unleash your soul for all to see.
Jackie published her book in June, but I just told her my godmother thoughts a few days ago. She didn’t laugh of think me presumptuous. She seemed to like the idea enough that she encouraged me to write about it.
So what does it mean to be a godmother to a book? I’m not completely sure. But I do think that part of my job is to help put it out into the world. Share some of its words and encourage people to read it.
So here’s the last stanza from Jackie’s poem Bits of Stars, which is in her book Gone To Ground. I hope it makes you think and feel and “shine darkly”, as it did me.
light and dark,
they meet within us
creating the spark
of life itself-
brains to bones,
all we are, is dirt
and bits of stars,
You can buy Jackie’s book of poems and essays Gone To Ground from Connie at Battenkill Books or on Amazon.
4 thoughts on “Who My Children Are”
“all we are, is dirt and bits of stars” I love that line. I liked this post Maria. I think of some of my stories in the same way. Little pieces of me, like a child, born of me, out of me, with shards of happy and sad mixed in.
That’s beautiful John. About your art and your idea of children.
Just ordered the book from my local bookstore