In 2013 I published my debut novel, The Myth of Jake. Since that time many of you have asked for a sequel. Some of you had questions that needed an answer. Others of you just wanted to stay with the characters for a bit longer.
Since the publication of The Myth of Jake I’ve been working hard on another, very different project. Hopefully it’s one I will be able to bring to you all soon. But while I’ve been in that world, my mind has been very far from Tempelton, Tennessee and the characters we met there.
So, I was rather surprised when I started to feel the pull of Maggie Carlton again a few months ago. Knowing I don’t have the bandwidth at present for a full-fledged sequel, she and I agreed that blogging would suffice for now.
I hope you enjoy this short, short story / blog post, because Maggie’s got a lot to tell you.
The other day, my four-year old son, Sam, ran into the bathroom we share and yelled, “Mommy!” He was out of breath and wearing a look of panic.
I rushed to finish pulling my favorite Texas Book Festival t-shirt over my head so I could get to him. But that ended badly because I’ve worn a huge hole in the right underarm and my head went through it instead.
Once I got myself straightened out, I knelt down beside Sam, kissed the top of his blond head, and asked him what was wrong.
“Mommy, I’m worried,” he said, matter-of-factly.
These are words I’ve heard often enough. It would seem that my little boy inherited my genes for anxiety, much to my dismay.
“What’s got you worried, Sam?” I asked, as gently as I could. His dad and I have worked with a family therapist for a long time now and she’s given us some great advice on ways to discharge some of Sam’s anxiety. I try to use them, but mostly I use them to keep my own anxiety at bay so I don’t make his worse.
“We have a Halloween party at school. It’s on Friday,” he explained.
“I know, honey. Your teachers sent me an email about it,” I replied. By this time I had plopped down on the bathroom rug and pulled him in close to me. I smushed my face into his hair and inhaled deeply.
He smells like his father.
“But I’m supposed to go to Dad’s house on Friday. You can’t come. And Dad won’t know how to do my costume right,” he confessed.
Sam’s dad and I recently separated and have filed for divorce. Sam’s anxiety has been at peak levels since we moved from the house we shared with Tom into a small garage apartment behind a friend’s sprawling suburban home.
Little moments like these keep cropping up. Moments when it dawns on Sam that one or the other of us won’t be around to accomplish some uniquely-Mom or uniquely-Dad task. He melted into a puddle of tears last week when a light in the kitchen blew, certain that I would be unable to change the bulb. When I successfully repaired the broken light, he looked more confused than relieved.
I’m a writer. I’ve got three books to my name: The Myth of Jake, which was a memoir about my best friend and small town politics; St. Catherine’ s Carpenter: An Island and Its Entrepreneurial Savior, which focuses on business on a small island in the Caribbean; and, my most recent book, Wired Differently But Bound Together : Marriage and Asperger’s Syndrome, which I co-wrote with my husband, Tom, after he received a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Each book, in its own way, reflects my attempt to make heads or tails of something that was eating at me.
I need to do that again. I need to make heads or tails of what Sam’s bringing to me. A trusted friend suggested that instead of a book, I should blog. I emphatically told her no. I’m not going to become just another middle age woman with a blog, I urged. I write books.
My friend laughed at me and said, “Yes you do. Because, in the past, people who were interested in what you had to say were the kind of people who read books. The kind of people you want to reach now? They’re moms going through divorce. Maggie, they read blogs.”
Did I mention she’s in PR? Trusting that she’s better at identifying a market than I am, I set up this space the next morning.
I called Tom and he agreed, as I expected he would, that I should also attend Sam’s Halloween party at school, despite the custody terms we’ve agreed to during our separation. Sam was relieved and, crisis averted, Sam and I tore into the ribs I’d fetched on the way home from work.
Sam likes his slathered in sauce – the deep, rich tomato kind. As a native Tennessean raised on pulled pork with a simple vinegar sauce, I find his penchant for the Kansas City-style ribs both amusing and something of a relief. He’s got someone else’s genes in there, too.
He polished off the last rib and I laughed because somehow sauce had found its way from the top of his blond head down to his shorts. I handed him a napkin and asked him if his supper was good.
“So good,” he said. “Mommy?” he followed.
“Yep?” I asked, standing to put the plastic in our recycling bin and the bones in the trash.
“Dad hates ribs.”
“Yes he does, Sammy,” I agreed. “He doesn’t like the mess or all the work involved in getting the meat off the bone.”
“Sometimes you need a little mess,” he said.
I smiled and told him I could agree more.
Guest blogger Maggie Carlton is a journalist and author of three books. Her most recent book, Wired Differently But Bound Together : Marriage and Asperger’s Syndrome, was published in 2014. She teaches writing at various schools in the Central Texas area and conducts workshops for adults. She lives in Austin, Texas with her son, Sam.