I went to Holy Name of Mary church this afternoon to do a book reading. They were having a church bazaar in their basement, selling household trinkets, plants, baked good, clothes, kids toys and those hotdogs and buns that every church bazaar seems to sell that taste fabulous and cost two bucks (and that includes a drink!). The bazaar reminded me of being a toddler when my aunt would take me to the bazaars at her parish church. Nostalgia covered me like ketchup my hotdogs. I used to attend this church. I lived in the neighbourhood from grade five through university. I faced God in that church many a time….went to mass, went to youth group, prayer group and eventually said goodbye. It was a bit of a coming home. The people volunteering at the event were the same people there when I was except it wasn’t their kids who were running around, it was there grandchildren.
My writer friend Mary invited me to read. There were about eight people, men and women, sitting at round tables listening to me. It was a different crowd than I’m used to but I was prepared. I knew I wouldn’t be talking about vaginas and masturbation but family and love. We could relate on these things. I did say the word sex and one of the women blushed a deep crimson and whispered something to her table mate. Several woman commented that there was ‘nothing funny about pregnancy’. You’d think this may have been a tough crowd but for me, it was very inspiring. These women had five, six, seven children. Before fancy hospital ‘birthing rooms’, before epidurals. The generation gap was huge and glaring as I talked and read. But they listened. They nodded. They laughed. They were honest. ‘Congratulations on your book, dear’, one woman said, ‘but you speak too fast. You could never be a primary teacher.’ It was the perfect comment. I’ll take it with me. And it spoke so clearly to me about the differences between our generations: speed – my generation has cell phones, high speed this and that (one woman answered her cell phone on about the eleventh ring then proceeded to talk into the phone upside down) ; primary teaching – a working woman was a teacher not a writer, and certainly not a traveling-while-pregnant writer. I was fascinated by their attentiveness and it sparked a fire within me. While all women have ‘the gift of gab’ not all women use it – for various reasons, I’m sure. I know these women have so much to say…but to whom? When? Where? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could create that space? Ask our grandmother’s how it felt when they gave birth. What it was like in the hospital. How they felt holding their newborn in their arms for the first time…
I was moved today. I sold three books. Two for less than the cover price plus a hotdog. Why not? What I got wasn’t worth money.
I’m watching Jett and Miller play now…and I’m thankful that I wrote my book. When I’m old and grey…I may be shy. I may not want to talk about my vagina after I gave birth but it’ll be there for them.
I mentioned to the group that I was leading a letter-writing workshop. A real hand-write a letter workshop. They all nodded. Indeed, that’s the only way to write a letter, they agreed in unison. Wouldn’t it be great if some of them showed up? I’d invite them to write a letter from their younger, pregnant selves to their daughters and granddaughters about what it was like for them.
Thank you, Holy Name of Mary parish family.