Daughter No. 2 has moved into my living room.
Her books are piled in a growing tower of procrastination on the coffee table, while loose-leaf, notes, binders and various and sundry other essentials required for the Perfect Essay spill off the loveseat and slowly, insidiously take over the couch.
Rowan is a fungus. Largely benign, but implacable and incapable of being stopped.
5 to 7 pairs of shoes litter the floor while several of her quirky book bags lie forlorn on the floor, weeping granola bars and oatmeal squares festooned with chew marks from the dogs, vomiting wisps of paper, gum wrappers and hand creams into a mess of rapidly increasing gargantuan proportions.
She is ensconced on the loveseat, laptop perched on her knees, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, bare except for the straps of her summer dress (Rowan logic –blanket AND summer dress). Facebook whispers from one screen, while regular little MSN squeals punctuate her animated discussion of medieval English religious rites.
I’m frustrated – we’re going into Month 2 of the Occupation yet she amuses me despite myself.
She is often there to greet me when I get up at 3:15 a.m., fingers busy, chipper and together, my night owl child. I feed her tea and advice and admonish her for staying up all night. But it is a wise child that knows herself and easily distracted Rowan works best when there are no excuses left to occupy time better spent writing and no family left to supply amusement.
And truth to tell, it brings back memories of my own. For the child comes by it honestly!
But she has it easier in some respects. I remember my old battered armchair, where I would nest surrounded like her by books and papers and necessities of life (in my case, a huge mug of tea and cigarettes), an old plank across the arms providing a writing surface where I would scribble my thoughts in my outrageously unintelligible scrawl. My coffee table was a crassly stolen Stop sign, laid atop “borrowed” milk cartons.
When a rough draft was done, I would leave the comfort of my chair to perch on a wobbly kitchen chair (rescued from the garbage) and flexing my fingers, began the battle with the ancient Underwood typewriter liberated from the musty archives of the newspaper office where I worked part-time to pay the piper.
I began in Grade 9 with a small turquoise Brother portable typewriter – bought when my English teacher called my parents and swore he had never seen such terrible writing. But my fingers learned to dance over the keys and my thoughts tumbled and fought in my mind and sought liberation in the hunt and peck of inky want and the typewriter would skitter like a dry leaf on a brisk autumn day across the table.
Discovering the Underwood and its 90 lbs of cast iron beauty was a wonder and a joy. After years of chasing the elusive Brother in its journeying, I was victorious in my rough love of the Underwood.
I marvel at how lucky Rowan is to have spell-check and insert and delete and the great comfort of making versions, erasing and redoing … all with a few keystrokes. White-out was my friend when I was in university and I learned early on to spell correctly and type accurately to avoid tripling the workload.
Plus, in addition to my own writings, I had D’s to transcribe as well. Like father, like daughter.
D was a denizen of the university library, a procrastinator extraordinaire, a maestro of avoidance when it came to actually putting his thoughts on paper although his debating skills and ability to control the discussion are legendary to this day.
Inevitably, he would arrive home in the wee hours with coffee-stained penned papers in hand, and handing them to me, have his tea and toddle off to bed. I, on the other hand, would sit at our smoky kitchen table, pounding away at the Underwood, straining eyes already exhausted to read his chicken scratch manuscripts which were inevitably due at 8 a.m. the next morning.
That is how in his final thesis “Transcendental Aesthetic” became “Transcendental Athlete” – I know, I know – at the time I thought it odd, but then it was Philosophy! And as I pointed out after the paper came back marked (and well, too, his Professor luckily had a sense of humour!), it seemed apropos in the context of the essay!
The cycle of life … I watch my child with fond eyes, her voice animated and loud in the dark of the early morning and wonder at the paths taken – who would have thought I would be doing THIS, standing in the early dawn watching my child repeat with her own twist the excesses of my own youth?