People often ask me if my husband and children mind that I write about them. Well, they might if they ever read my column. After 21 years in clerical bondage, mom finally gets a chance to shine in her twilight years. But can they be bothered?
Of course, I make my engineer husband, Olof, read the ones I’ve written about him before they’re submitted but even then, I’d bet my next paycheck he couldn’t even tell me the topic when he’s done. He has perfected a look of intense concentration as he reads but I’m pretty certain he’s really pondering subjects of more pressing concern to him like Fermat’s Last Theorem or the application of binomial distribution to logistics processes.
I always say, “So, no objections?”
“No,” he’ll say, “not at all. It was fine.”
Me (trick question): “So what was your favorite part?”
Olof (knows it’s a trick question): “All of it!”
Which still doesn’t keep him from coming back a week later when the column is out and saying, “My co-workers said you married me for my skills in pulling a toilet and extracting toy rocket parts.”
And I’ll say, “No, dear. What I said is that this is not a quality one should overlook in a man, particularly a second husband. And you approved that column.”
The kids are easier. They don’t live in town. And yes, they could easily read my column on the Light’s website. If they were so inclined. Which they are generally not. I realize that they both work long hours and have tiny children. My older son, Rory, says that no offense, but they’ve heard a lot of these stories before. o I only send them ones that I think would be a) of genuine interest to them, and more specifically b) are not about them.
As a precursor to my current column, I wrote a four to six page blog every week when we lived in Europe in 2005 and 2006 on a work assignment. Olof, amazingly, never read a word of it. “Um, why?” he said, genuinely puzzled. “I was there. Living it.”
In the kids’ defense, this was four to six pages a WEEK. My older son, Rory’s, take was that this might be waaayy more information than they wanted to know about the folks’ activities. He said he wanted to retain the mystique of us as the staid parents he knew and not some alien facsimiles, who were suddenly auditioning for IKEA commercials. (The ad did specifically say, “Blond American couple in their 50s.” We even got call backs!)
But my younger son, Henri’s, response was the worst. Here mom was having the adventure of her middle-aged life, an unexpected two-year sojourn in Europe (well, it was supposed to be eight months but the Europeans aren’t exactly balls of fire when it comes to deadlines). Temporarily paroled from a career fighting the good fight against felony semicolon abuse among her scientist bosses, it was the first new thing mom had done in 25 years. Legions of total strangers were subscribing to the witty saga of the madcap adventures of hers and Olof’s “senior(s) year abroad.” Henri’s usual comment to the blog? “Mom – Really busy at work. From now on, would you please summarize in three lines or less?”
So what he generally got was:
- We are living in Europe.
- It is amazingly fun here.
- They speak a foreign language that we don’t know and which results in some seriously challenging, but often-hilarious encounters.
I remember reading a 1950s book about writing which cautioned, “Never write about family.” Geesh, where’s the fun in that? They’re the best topics. Of course, turnabout is fair play. Fortunately for me, neither of my kids seems to have a literary bent but I have been promised that at my funeral, the stories will come fast and furious, particularly some seriously unflattering (actually downright vicious) ones involving chocolate. It will get ugly. Which, of course, is why I’ve tried hard to get my own versions of the chocolate stories in print while I’m still above the grass. (There were extenuating circumstances! I’m an addict, I admit it!)
I’m fairly certain that every time one of my family members accidentally reads a column about himself, he quietly cackles. He knows his time will come.