#64, And Now We Have Everything
Every time I start trying to write about And Now We Have Everything, Meaghan O’Connell’s debut, which came out this week but has been up in brain for many months now, I just start reading it again, reading one chapter or reading the whole way through. I can’t think of the last time I read a book and as soon as I was done with it had to read it again, and again. It hasn’t been away from my bedside table since I got it. Actually, there are two copies there, the ARC and the finished hardcover. I was going to get rid of the ARC, then decided I should just give it to a friend instead, but then I realized that might make them not buy the book, so instead I’m just keeping both copies, it seems.
Meaghan and I came to parenthood differently — her first pregnancy was accidental, mine was planned — but we both had our first babies when we were 29 and it wasn’t until I read her that I realized how much I had needed to read parenting writing by a writer who was actually my age. If there was one reason that I started writing this newsletter — besides the fact that I had said in my 10-year college reunion update, sent in several months in advance of the actual reunion, that I was writing it, to force myself to be accountable and actually have started writing it by the time people would be reading the update — it was Meaghan, who showed me that there could be a space for this and that millennial parents didn’t just have to wait around and get older, more mature, less of-their-time, before they began writing about having kids. I didn’t have to wait! I didn’t have to wait until I was 42 and looking back dreamily at my children’s toddler years from an elegant writing shed in my large backyard, uninterrupted by any children. I didn’t have to wait until I had a backyard or long, guilt-free stretches of uninterrupted time at all. I could just start, now.
There are all kinds of things you can do before you’re ready, before your plan is perfect; that’s what her writing has shown me.
Here is my favorite passage from And Now We Have Everything.
In a way, the baby dying was more fathomable than him living. That we were falling deeply in love, that the stakes were higher than they’d ever been before, and we would have to live with it, with loving like this — that was harder to take in than the possibility of a great tragedy.
There’s a new child in Alice’s class who doesn’t speak English yet. (This isn’t an uncommon situation at their school.) He brings a black plastic wall clock to school with him. At first I didn’t understand why. Then yesterday I realized that each morning, his mom and one of the teachers help him set the hands on the clock to show him the time that his mom is coming back. So if she’s going to pick him up at 3:30 they set the hands of the clock to 3 and 6. Then he can match it to the clock on the wall at school. And he carries the big clock around with him all day.
I learned this and I thought and thought about it and I thought about that passage in Meaghan’s book, which you must go buy this weekend.