Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Eldest Daughter

Most mornings I get up early to write. And when I say early, I mean it. As in, hours before sunrise. While I wait for coffee to brew, I often walk to the front of the house to gaze out the library window. I love looking out into the dark, at the warm circles spread by streetlamps over the rain-slick street.

Lately, the library shades are drawn when I enter the room. My eldest daughter closes them in the evening: she doesn’t want people looking in. My instinct is to turn on the library light at night and leave the window bare, to let the world look—into this room, at least. I’m proud of this room. The walls are lined with books. When friends come to visit for the first time, they tell us that seeing the library through the front window is how they know they’ve come to the right house.

This same daughter who likes the shades to be closed used to beg me not to write about her. She was a little kid then, years ago. I wrote what I needed to write, hoping that by the time I published a book, she would have matured enough not to mind appearing as a literary character. But I always wondered, even worried, that I’d publish and she would forever resent me for it.

She turned fifteen the year I signed a contract on Through the Veil. We were in the midst of packing and moving and shifting our lives from Texas to Oregon that year, so I didn’t have time to consider the fact that things I’d written about our family—about my daughter—would soon be perfect bound and sitting on our bookshelf.

The kids started school and I went back to a regular writing schedule in September. I started a blog. My daughter, this same young woman, joined a writing group and started writing with and for her peers. She read my blog and didn’t seem to mind that I wrote about our family life—so long as I told the truth and didn’t embarrass anyone.

Then I remembered about the parts of Through the Veil my daughter didn’t know I’d written, the parts about her.

I handed her the manuscript, with several chapters flagged. “I did write about you,” I confessed. “Nothing embarrassing. And I can’t change it. I want you to read it before it comes out in the book.” She took the manuscript pages from me and closed the bedroom door.

When my daughter came out, her eyes shone—not with tears, but with something that looked to me like pride. Like she had enjoyed reading of our life in Jordan. “I remember this stuff,” she said, “but like in a dream. It’s so weird to read about your life and feel like it was interesting.” And so my teenaged daughter gave me her blessing.

This morning when I got up early, I saw the drawn shade in the library and my instinct was to go and yank it open. But the sun hadn’t come up and anyway who is out on the streets to look in? I’ll raise that shade later. All in good time.


  1. "It’s so weird to read about your life and feel like it was interesting." I love that line. What a terrific gift to give your kids—a perspective on their own lives that says, "Mine has been a life worth reading about."

  2. I like the window into your current life - to see the rooms you dwell in now. Very evocative and tightly woven - like the closed blinds.
    I also like the blue cast in the picture (the blue blee ;)