Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Perfect Ending

I spotted her at McDonalds. A mom, like me, with her children in tow. This day, I only had my youngest with me. Her three looked to be about five, three and not quite two years old. She had arrived with a plan similar to mine. After eating lunch, we’d sit and enjoy a few moments of peace while our children entertained themselves in the Playplace. I had brought along a legal pad for writing; she had a book tucked under her arm. I peered at the spine (I always wonder what people are reading) and read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Her bookmarker was near the end. She only had about thirty pages to go.

My child disappeared into the play area and I began to write. Her children toddled away and, just as she opened the book, one returned to climb on her lap. She snuggled the girl for a minute and then set her down. The mom opened her book again, and her older son appeared with tears in his eyes. She rubbed his head, kissed him and he went on his way. No sooner had she opened the book and the crying boy rematerialized.

It wasn’t playtime, it was naptime. She calmly endured about ten more minutes of interruptions before she closed her book, placed it in her bag, gathered her children up and took them home. I wanted to reach out to her and pat her arm, maybe hug her neck and say, “I feel ya, sistah.” Sometimes you just can’t catch a well-deserved break from the demands of your children.

She came to mind again this week as I tried to finish a manuscript. My writing partner Joan and I had set a deadline of July 1 to complete our story. Two weeks later, we still had the last two chapters to complete and most of that burden rested on my shoulders. She had written most of her sections and I needed to fill in around her.

Of course, this week my husband was out of town and, even though one child was away at camp, the other two were here and needed my attention. Then my editor called and asked if I could write a last-minute article. Sure, I said. I ended up not sleeping much.

Yesterday, I picked up a friend for my son to play with, came home and fixed lunch. I played with my daughter and then her friend Daniel came over, rescuing me from a day of manipulating dolls around on their quest to find the castle where the prince was hosting a ball. I wasn’t playing right anyway. She insisted my doll had to wear a long dress for the ball, and I had my heart set on a short, flirty number with lace trim. Instead I ended up with the one she didn’t want because it looked like a nightgown—because it was a nightgown.

Later, I managed to hole up with my laptop in my bedroom, leaving my office free for computer games of Hotwheel racing for my daughter and Daniel. My son and his friend played soccer in the den and Playstation when soccer got too rough. I sat on my bed and finished the book. As I typed the last lines, my eyes got wet with tears and I don’t cry easily. I tried to tell myself that I was emotional from having to end something that had been a part of my life for the past ten months. But it wasn’t that at all. The ending really got to me. The characters aren’t just names on a page but have become real to Joan and me. We talk about them as if they’re old friends—they just happen to say and act the way we tell them to.

Since Joan was out of town, I sent her a text: It is finished. She called later and we shared a high-five via a wireless connection, and I emailed her the final two chapters. I slipped outside to shag balls while my son and his friend played HomeRun Derby Baseball with a tennis ball directed at the neighbor’s house. Then I went inside, fixed supper and treated myself to a glass of wine.

The kids and I played two games of Clue (I won both times—maybe I’ll share my strategy with them) and then entertained ourselves with a challenge of, Who can drink milk from a sippy cup held between their feet? Since I’m in bragging mode, I will admit that I was able to lift my wine to my mouth with the glass held between my feet. Thankfully, no pictures were taken of that achievement.

A text later from Joan read that she absolutely loved the last two chapters. I knew she would. It was the perfect ending to a story that practically told itself. The characters just needed us to put it on paper.


Julie Layne said...

Yay! Congrats on the finish! Can't wait to read the rest of it.

It is a weird little feeling to hit that last line, isn't it? I typed "The End" on the two I've finished just because. I know it won't go on the actual doc I send to an agent or publisher, but it was a necessary part of the process. :)

Wila said...

How I love to tell my friends and family about my friend "the novelist" and I truly belive "published" and "award winning" will soon follow.

I'm proud of you Pamela...oh yeah as a writer too!

Anonymous said...

When do I get to read the rough draft? You let me read the first novel draft! It was great, so this one must be greater! Waiting for an answer.

Anonymous said...

It clicked off before I signed my name. Sorry. Mother (I'm #3)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Congratulations. Just that.


p.s. I totally would've talked to the woman at McDonald's. But you probably guessed that.

Joan Mora said...

Yea, we're done! I guarantee, I can't drink wine by holding a glass between my feet!

Oh no, I always type 'THE END' on the copy I send to an agent. Yikes! That's why I'm getting rejected, right?! Quit laughing, I realize they aren't getting that far. :)