Before the clock strikes six, my 5 year old climbs across my lap while I’m writing. She seems to only do it when I’m working on a pivotal plot point, and need to be focused, but it is a small price to pay for having an amazing daughter. I’m working on my fourth novel. My editor wants me to do something more serious and “adult-ish,” but the teenager in me keeps writing (crappy) young adult novels. Hey, they sell. And the movie of my first novel did, too.
“Lucy, get off, please. Ten more minutes, and I promise we can go get pancakes at Eleanor’s,” I say, naming the diner down the street from us, and pushing her off of me, “you can even get chocolate syrup on them.”
“But I want waffles today,” she argues.
“They have waffles there, too. Here,” I say, tossing one of our dog’s toys, which happens to be shaped like a waffle, “Take this to Henry, and play with him until we’re ready to go.”
“Okay,” she replies, taking the toy into the kitchen. I slide in my wheely chair, and peek at her. She’s content, playing with the waffle toy and one of our dogs, Henry. There’s something new everyday with her. Parenting is 40% struggle, 30% frustration, 20% exhaustion, but the other 10% is pure joy. Ooh, I should put that in my next book. Maybe I’ll write something about parenting. Maybe it’s best to stick to what I know, but I’ve never been very good at that.
I’ve wanted a kid since I was young, and five years ago I was blessed with a little girl, Lucy Carla, a name I’ve had picked out since I was 13. I had given up hope of trying to adopt, and almost used her name for a main character, but at midnight (though it was only 8:00 in California, where the agency was based) the adoption agent called me, telling me I was eligible (damn right I was, my last book was on the New York Times bestseller list for fifty-six weeks straight, I live in a stable home, and already spent nearly $1000 baby proofing my house.)
I snap my laptop shut, and call Lucy. I tug a winter coat over her arms. It’s getting a tad small on her, and I make a mental note to go buy her a new one. I swear, I glance away for two minutes, and she has grown another inch.
I open the front door, and step out onto the farmer’s porch, which was half the reason I bought the place. The house was fixer-upper fifteen minutes outside of Burlington, Vermont. I fell in love with wrap-around porch, perfect for soaking in sun and novels in the summer, and stained glass windows that filters in sunlight, almost as fast I fell in love with my husband.
This year, it’s an especially freezing Vermont winter. Wind whips at our faces, clawing at our cheeks. I put my hand out, and Lucy’s tiny one wraps around it. The warmth from her hands radiates through her mittens and into my gloves. We walk down the street, cottage windows glowing like fireflies in the early Vermont morning. I look at my watch, and it’s 6:27. Crap. I have two minutes to get to Eleanor’s, which takes five minutes. I’m meeting my editor, Kathy, there. She likes to meet early. And there’s ice. My editor hates it when I’m late. She’s nice until I’m off-schedule, and waste her time.
“Come on, Luce,” I say, scooping her up, running down the street, and praying to Jesus that I don’t slip. Six thirty-one, and I don’t see my editor. Whew.
I push the door in, and a wave of much-welcomed heat cocoons me. The golden glow of Eleanor’s welcomes me back; I look down at Lucy, and she looks up, and gives me a toothy grin.
“Julia, how are ya?” Liz asks. I’m here so much, most of the staff know my name
“Table for three, please,” I say to her.
“Take your usual,” Liz says, gesturing to the booth that Lucy and I usually sit in. The diner welcomes us back, the memorabilia and checkered floors, greeting us with the same comforts that haven’t changed in half a century years.
“Thanks,” I say with a smile.
Liz grabs a two menus, and a pack of crayons for Lucy.
Once we sit down, I say “Lucy, I need you to be good, and eat your pancakes-”
“But I want waffles,” she says, pouting.
“Okay, you can have waffles, but you need to be quiet. I’m meeting with Kathy. Remember, she helps me with my books?”
I see Kathy, my editor, rush in. She sees me, waves, then slides into the seat across from me. “How are you, love?” she asks. Kathy’s been my editor for thirteen years, and the British accent that pops out of her mouth still shocks me.
“Which one of us are you talking to?” I respond, laughing. I’m honestly the funniest person I know (yet no one else seems to think so.) “Kathy, you remember Lucy, my daughter, right?”
“How could I forget? Shall we order now?” Kathy says as the waitress strides up to our table.
The waitress nods at Lucy, “Can I have the banana french toast?”
I shake my head in disbelief; the girl who wanted waffles so badly orders french toast. Kids.
“I’ll have the chocolate chip pancakes with extra whipped cream,” I say. I’ll stop ordering junk food when my metabolism turns for the sluggish, but until then, I’m not denying myself the best pancakes on the planet.
“And I’ll have a yogurt parfait to go, please,” Kathy says. Always a buzzkill. “Now, let me see the baby,” Kathy asks. By baby, she means manuscript.
I heave the 700 page manuscript out of my backpack. “Here it is, Kathy. The last three years of my life.”
“Also known as the future New York Times bestseller and blockbuster,” Kathy remarks.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” I say, biting my lip, trying to repress a grin.
“Not yet,” Kathy says with a smile, “Maybe in the future. You know, I didn’t come this far for any old, lousy manuscript. The way you were ranting in those emails-” she chuckles, “I knew I had to come up, and get it myself.” She pauses, takes a breath, reminiscing towards the outlook of days to come. “Anyway, I will guard this-” she scoops up the manuscript, “with my life. It was good to see you, Julia.” I pull myself out of the seat, and embrace my editor, whom I’m eternally grateful for. Kathy is who I owe for hours of work for turning my sloppy manuscripts into the glossy-covered best-sellers, sitting on the third shelf and Barnes & Noble.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” I ask.
“I’m afraid I can’t, love,” she says, “I have a meeting in New York.”
Kathy strides through the diner, and I watch her pick up her parfait from the window, and stroll briskly out the door; the starts struggling up through the winter breeze, testing the boundaries of the night sky.
I slide back into my seat, and look at Lucy. She’s chowing down on french toast, happier than a dog with a tennis ball, but what could I expect? She’s my daughter, and I raised her right.
“Wanna split, Mom?” Lucy asks me.
“Definitely,” I say, nodding. We each transfer half of our dish onto the other’s plate. I’m glad I share my life with her, just like I share my pancakes.