Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just born this way

   I found this 2nd Grade letter in some papers my grandparents had saved.  I'm guessing we were told to write a letter to our parrunts and I was living with them at the time.

   I have no memory of writing the letter so I don't know what was on my mind at the time, but after formally inquiring about my sister and brother (who lived there with me, as a matter of fact) I got right to the point. It would would seem there was waerk to be done and I was willing to do it. I would do the work like Daniel Boone. 

   This morning I sat down to make a to-do list.  And even as I wrote it, I was aware that more than half the list was made up of projects I've assigned myself, things no one is making me do. 

  Are worker bees born or made? I guess it's in my DNA. I can't change who I am. But I did change one thing. A year or so after I wrote this note, when someone checked my birth certificate, I learned I'd been spelling my name wrong.  My mother had forgotten that my Anne had an 'e' on the end.

  Ok, enough about the letter. I need to get back to work.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A room of my own and all the time in the world

   I want a tree house. I want a play house. I want a fort with a cardboard sign on the door that says Keep Out. I want what Virginia said. I want a room of my own.

   On the surface, it’s a ridiculous wish. After all, now that the children are gone, and the youngest is either away at school or away at her job as a camp counselor, I have the whole house to myself every day without anyone here to distract me. I can work in any room--or all of them if I want to--but it isn’t a longing for space that creeps up on me. It’s a longing for my own space.

Anyone who works from home knows how it is. The rooms around me are full of distraction. Too many years of being the cook and bottle washer, of fitting my work into the time leftover after the family’s needs were met, have left me struggling to separate myself from that previous life. 

  I sit down to write and suddenly remember the laundry that needs to go into the dryer or on the line. I need to edit but it’s 3pm and I have no idea what we’ll have for dinner. I want to sit quietly and think but the sofa is covered in dog hair, again, and I know if I don’t get it now it will only get worse. The grandbaby wants to come to Nana’s and Nana drops everything.

I do a lot of traveling these days. I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms or staterooms aboard ship. If I’m not exhausted, I can get a lot done there and it finally dawned on me that I’m more productive because I don’t feel pulled to keep house or take care of anyone else.

I put my towels back on the rack and my belongings in the suitcase or closet. Beyond that, my time is my own. 

Like anyone who transitions from one life to another, I’m slowly retraining. I’m working on breaking the habit of writing at night, a necessity when I had a house full of children. Now, I keep banker’s hours. Well, I try.

I remind myself the world won’t end if my husband comes home and has to make a sandwich or salad for dinner. It doesn’t matter to him, I’m the one who feels guilty if we end up with scrambled eggs and toast.

Now that it’s summer I keep thinking about the big Hackberry tree in my backyard when I was a girl. It was ancient and its limbs sprawled away from the massive trunk, casting shade across my grandparent’s house. The remains of my mother’s treehouse were still in the crook of the two biggest limbs, a platform of splintery boards that curled at the ends. Once my weekend or summer chores were done, usually dusting, watering plants or sweeping the front porch, I would shimmy up the slats nailed to the tree, often with a book tucked under my arm, and hide away. My younger brother and sister couldn’t follow me and my grandmother, probably relieved I wasn’t hanging on her heels, left me alone.
From that perch I could watch the world go by. Or daydream. Or lose myself in my book.

I think that's why I want my treehouse back. I want my own playhouse. I want a room of my own where I can hide away with nothing but my laptop and an idea and all the time in the world. 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at