Monthly Archives: April 2008

Could I be Jack?

My grandson wrote a fan letter to an author recently. Without my urging. It was his own idea, conceived as he sat in the back seat of my car as we took him to a music lesson. He composed it on his get-him-occupied-so-he-and-his-sister-don’t-fight-and drive-me-off-the-road-or-crazy notebook. There was distress on his part because of the bumpy roadway, but he wrote at stoplights. Here is what he said:

Dear Mary Pope Osborne (of the Magic Treehouse Series)I read almost all your books. Anyway it would be nice if you made a SHOW. And if you do could I be Jack?

He then added a phone number, his name, and his age….seven.

Now I love this letter because of its joie de vivre and its insouciance. I like that word, insouciance. It means light-hearted unconcern. He just assumes that he can be Jack. I need insouciance as I polish this draft of my next novel. Dear powers that be, it would be nice if this got finished, got published, and if it does, can I be a real writer?

Some part of me frets me to pieces with comparisons to past work––it isn’t as good as what I wrote last or first or inbetween––and with nags that I’m taking too long (who is measuring?). I know myself well enough now to know that if I had a constant feeding tube of praise and adulation, it wouldn’t be enough. Writing taps into my fears on a subterranean level, and so I use a spiritual practice, of which awareness and detachment are a piece, to keep me sane and keep me writing or whatever I have to do to make my living. But I am not at light-hearted unconcern, and I like it when I see it.

Here’s to my grandson, who wrote an author because he liked her books and who knows without a doubt that he can be Jack if they will just make a SHOW.

Mary Pope Osborne


Journal entry from 1999

that woman today at the bus stop with the little boy in her lap she so tired so gallant looking the sadness of her mouth the worry on her brow the boy so fat brown succulent so good as if he knew he mustn’t stress his mother at all the way she held him in her lap at first i thought he was asleep but he was just still very still like a baby animal that senses danger her shoes her best black slightly frayed at the heels uncomfortable for walking she was hot and tired of carrying the heavy baby hose a dress not flattering but good why was she dressed up for an interview was she a student did she speak English my throat got tight with my lack of Spanish what if I’d spoken to her told her how lovely her brown eyed still boy was the van that drove up was new was nice was she distressed i thought so beautiful little boy whose face resembled his mother’s

Another ending for Mom

I took my mother to see her sister in Florida. My uncle was flying in for a reunion of the siblings. Mom has mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. It was a driving trip and hard for us both. She was a trooper but confused, overwhelmed by choices and new places and the familiar being always unfamiliar. She had very much wanted to go to Florida, but by the time I dropped her off she was fretful, quietly upset, and ready to go home. Within a day, she was soothed, but all of us realized that her days of traveling zestfully to other places were over.

She and her sister are close. Theirs has been a vibrant, loving relationship. They were black belt shoppers and mothers of large families. They exchanged clothes and wore the same hair-dos. The day before I brought her back, I was so aware that my mom will never go to her sister’s home again, sit in those comfortable rooms with all the photos of family, sit on the porch, drink coffee, talk about children or weather or husbands or the weight they’ve gained or lost. It’s another ending for Mom. She doesn’t know it; that’s the kindness, I guess. But I felt it, felt sadness and loss and life’s moving on, its steel-edged inevitability.

I felt the same during my sister’s last weeks. I walked the yard, daffodils ready to bloom everywhere, with my college-age daughter and thought, my sister will never do this, this very simple, we take it so for granted thing, with her grown daughter. It hurt in the most exquisite way­­––life’s hardness and our fragility, death and rebirth, luck and that which will be.

To my Christmas Cactus

Here’s my latest kinda haiku. I play with that 5, 7, 5 syllable poem structure sometimes. It’s like finger exercises for my mind. I usually notice something in my garden and work with the haiku structure to capture it. I always enjoy attempting the precision haiku requires; it makes my mind feel sharp, crisp.

You are late, my dear

I gave up on you––but there

you are–– four fat tight


the color of sherbet

palely orange