On being a middle child in a pragmatic family

I’m writing this post from my “office,” which is a corner of our bedroom with a nice, comfortable desk near a window. Not that I’m complaining. The kids aren’t here, and I’m sneaking in a few minutes of writing before work.

My new book “The Shape of Home” deals a lot with growing up and navigating the influences of childhood to find your own identity. I was the third child in my boisterous, often chaotic family, and the daydreamer artistic one at that, something I write about in my poem “In Medias Res”:

I arrived late to the party
after the food was cold and half-eaten
after the hosts who were half-drunk
had become half-sober
in the middle of stories
about things that happened before I was born
I slipped in like a quiet gift
they’d find cleaning up

Friends and family know I’m habitually five minutes late (or worse) everywhere I go. I’m organized most of the time and have a deeply pragmatic side, but it fights with my head-in-the-clouds dreamer side. The pragmatism comes from my mom and dad, kind hearted, tough Presbyterians whose coat of arms would be someone mowing the lawn if we had one. My family always made fun of my artistic side, but at the same time my parents nurtured it by exposing me to books, art and music and encouraging me to read my heart out as a kid.

Late to school
I swung open the metal doors
and dropped in
like a trumpet blast in a measure of rest
Late to the playground games
my own shoes
walked off without me

I think becoming a parent made me grow up (in a good way) and become my own person. Suddenly I have my own kids to get places on time, who of course have no sense of urgency at all. Isn’t it funny how time changes as you get older, and seems to move more quickly?

On time the gray hairs of whiskers
sprouted on my cheeks
and children sprung forth
and grew tall like corn …

You can read the poem, which was published by Blue Bonnet Review, here.


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