A little before halfway through the day, I figured I should do something I’d always been meaning to do. Outside, little wind, full sun and pouffy clouds. Inside, I packed an Olive picnic, knitting project and sunglasses. A usual circling of our minivan for errands and a mocha before I turned down the music and told Olive my plan, Hey, Olive. Want to picnic by the west side lighthouse?
She was thrilled the whole slow, west side drive by swans in pond, Shetland ponies in a field, a tractor on the road making traffic, and an eagle on a fence post.
We settled into the sun on the south wall of the lighthouse I know well. Olive was all cheddar bunny crackers and sticky peanut butter and jelly smiles while she told me the porpoises and orcas were playing hopscotch underwater as the boats fished for salmon above them. I’d try to talk, but she’d whisper-tell me the eagle babies were all asleep in their nests. We sat atop a rocky cliff, and she’d look down every once and a while to tell me it was, a very high tide, Mama.
Olive is a northwest island girl. Three and a half years outside of my belly and she can point to Canada and calls the peninsula The Oooohlymptic Peninsula.
I took it all in, the way I do when I have just one of our girls at my side. These solo daughter dates are everything to me lately. I feel so present and my mind doesn’t race ahead to what needs to be done next. I feel like I get to know parts of their self I don’t otherwise see in a full home.
She was quiet for a few minutes and I watched her blonde ponytail flop from bite to bite.
I love butter on popcorn, on pancakes. Can I put butter on meatballs? I like butter. I really like butterflies. Orange ones. Like Halloween. Like my birthday. I do not like flies. They scare me. Like bees. Mama, you freak out at bees. Mama, tell me a story. There’s too much pea-what butter in my mouth, said Olive as I hung on each word with a smile.
So I began.
When I was first pregnant, I was invited to write a play for the Centennial Stories Project. The town of Friday Harbor was turning 100 and I wanted to tell a story that hadn’t been told. When my belly was too big for regular clothes, I spent late nights at the historical museum listening to tapes of island elders. On the very last tape I listened to there was a great grandma talking about a little girl roller-skating in the basement of the lighthouse her parents were the caretakers of. In between her words, I could hear the squeak of a rocking chair and I realized, in the dark of the museum, that I was sitting in the same chair.
Whoa, Mama. Was I kicking from inside your belly? Asked Olive as I smiled at how well she listens to a story.
I told Olive how the lady’s name was Helga and how I poured my pregnancy-induced insomnia into every lighthouse note. A few days later, an elderly volunteer at the museum where I’d been spending most of my time said her very good friend was the little girl in the lighthouse.
This lighthouse, Mama? Asked Olive.
I went on to tell Olive about how I met Agnes and how we drive by her house each day on the way to her preschool. I got to sit for days and hours with Agnes as my belly swelled into hot summer over pictures and diaries and notes and, oh, so many pictures with pretty ripple-y white edges.
I told Olive how it is so important to really listen to someone with a story to tell because it might become part of her own story someday.
I know, Mama, Olive said. Like, you talk to that grandma in the chair while I was in your belly.
I told Olive how I wrote the play as a poem and how all the characters talked to each other inside my head before I ever wrote a word.
Did I hear them, Mama? Asked Olive.
I described to Olive what a Director does and just who he is on the island and how we saw him in the cracker aisle last week at the grocery store. I was on bed rest at the end of our pregnancy, which meant I wrote all the time, and had Director meetings on our couch. One week before Halloween, before Olive’s welcome-to-the-world day, I went to auditions and cast actors was finally typed out into a 52-page narrative verse playLight at Limekiln.
Like Betty! Betty had an audition for the scary witch play! Remembered Olive as she forgot the title, Macbeth.
The first time I left Olive she was three months old and it was opening night, but she was really there all along. In the sunshine of today, I pointed to the light and told her all about how Agnes’ daddy would walk the spiral stairs to wind the light to keep ships off the rocks and straight in the strait.
Ooooh, said Olive, I really like it here. I like this lighthouse.
I’d waited so long to tell her about the piece of writing I’m most proud of. It’s absolutely wild to think I grew another blonde girl as I created my first play. Olive is so much a part of the play; just as Agnes’ lighthouse childhood is so much a part of our story. It’s amazing to feel so connected to a spot and place in time.
I’m happy I waited until this day to really share it with her. And just when it really couldn’t get much better, Mama, can you help me write a play?
and today, a bit of unedited writing
joining Just Write